Why do they always serve tomato juice on the plane?

Your question of the month in February (2016)
Ute, 10 years old

Have you ever noticed that many passengers order tomato juice during a flight? We will explain to you why the vegetable juice is so popular in the air.

Lufthansa conducted a study together with some scientists: Does it taste different during a flight than on the ground? To find out, 100 test persons were invited to a flight lab, which looks like a plane from the inside: with seats, overhead compartments, small windows and a narrow aisle in the middle. The test persons feel like they are really on a plane. Even the air pressure can be changed there – then it even feels like one is flying above the clouds. Here you can find more information about air pressure in a plane: How can you breathe on an aeroplane?

Then, the passengers were served various dishes and drinks – at first under "normal conditions", i.e. with normal air pressure as on the ground. The scientists observed whether the test persons enjoyed the food and drink. In this experiment, many testers found the tomato juice "musty".



In the second experiment, the air pressure in the test lab was changed – as if one were high up in the sky. Now the test persons had to try the various dishes and drinks again. And this time the answers were completely different! The tomato juice was now really delicious, fruity, sweet and cool.

The solution: When the air pressure is normal many things taste different than during a flight. The air pressure changes the taste. In particular the taste of salt, sugar or herbs is perceived to be weaker in the air than on the ground, the taste of fruity flavours and acids remains nearly unchanged. Exactly the same as if you have a cold, many things taste different then as well, don't they?

That's why passengers drink much more tomato juice on a plane, because on a flight it just tastes fruitier and sweeter than at home. Maybe you will give it a try on your next flight as well?