25 Crazy Facts About Airplane Food from 25 Crazy Facts About Airplane Food Gallery

25 Crazy Facts About Airplane Food Gallery

Editor
25 Crazy Facts About Airplane Food
iStock

25 Crazy Facts About Airplane Food

25 Crazy Facts About Airplane Food

iStock

Frequent flyers tend to have a love-hate relationship with airplane food. While in-flight meals often get a bad rep, it still stands that many airlines distinguish themselves from others through their on-board offerings. Some airlines have the absolute worst food, whereas others are more tolerable. The difference in food is also often a big reason why some people choose to fly business or first class instead of economy.

Most airlines work hard to make sure their passengers are as comfortable as possible, and food is a big part of that. The U.K.’s Monarch Airlines has worked to create food to de-stress their passengers, and American air carriers have started to make moves such as serving free wine to everyone or offering better coffee brands on board. Airline catering is so vital to the business that a lot goes into it, so if you care about what you eat mid-air, here are 25 crazy facts about airplane food.

Airline Catering Is a Multibillion-Dollar Industry

Airline Catering Is a Multibillion-Dollar Industry

iStock

Airline catering is a $13 billion global industry. The market size is expected to grow to $18 billion by 2021.

Airline Food Is Nearly 100 Years Old

Airline Food Is Nearly 100 Years Old

SAS Scandinavian Airlines/Wikimedia Commons

On October 11, 1919, Handley-Page served the first in-flight meals on their London to Paris route. For three shillings, passengers could purchase a pre-packaged lunch of a sandwich and fruit.

Airlines Can Differ on How They Want Their Fruit Cut

Airlines Can Differ on How They Want Their Fruit Cut

iStock

Airlines are very precise about the requirements for their food. While many of them cater from the same companies, their requests from said companies may differ. Not only does this mean they order different foods, but how those foods are presented can be different too. Airlines are even known to request that their fruit be cut in a certain way or weigh a certain amount while still fitting into their bowls.

Flight Delays Can Cause Food Waste

Flight Delays Can Cause Food Waste

Dreamstime

Not only does uneaten food get thrown out after every flight, but the food loaded onto a plane also gets thrown out before even taking off if the flight has been delayed for over six to eight hours. The entire load of food will get replaced in order to ensure food safety and quality.

Food Must Be Cooked On the Ground

Food Must Be Cooked On the Ground

Dreamstime

Airplanes don’t have proper kitchens due to safety reasons. Instead, the food is mostly prepared on the ground prior to the flight, and it can only be reheated once on board. The cabin crew must then use a convection oven that blows hot, dry air over the food that needs to be heated up. Some of the newer models have steam ovens, which are better for keeping food moist.

Food Tastes Totally Different Mid-Air

Food Tastes Totally Different Mid-Air

Dreamstime

Like Anthony Bourdain, you might despise airplane food. But it’s not the in-flight meal, it’s you. Food and drink taste very different to us at 30,000 feet due to humidity and low air pressure. At a high altitude, your ability to pick up sweet tastes drops by 15 to 20 percent, while your perception of saltiness drops by 20 to 30 percent.

Fruity Wines Are Preferable

Fruity Wines Are Preferable

iStock

The changes in your taste buds at a high altitude affect what’s on the wine menu. Wines that are more acidic and high in tannins aren’t as enjoyable in-flight, so most airlines tend to carry fragrant and fruity wines instead.

It Isn’t Exactly Fresh

It Isn’t Exactly Fresh

iStock

In-flight meals are generally prepared 10 hours before they’re supposed to be eaten. Sometimes, however, they can be made up to 72 hours beforehand, after which they are frozen. It’s totally safe, though. Under international food safety standards, airlines can freeze food for up to five days and and still safely serve it to passengers.

It’s Even More Overpriced Than You Think

It’s Even More Overpriced Than You Think

iStock

If you’ve flown before, you’ve likely noticed how expensive in-flight food and drink can be. A 2013 report found that airlines actually charge over 2,600 percent more than supermarkets! That’s not even considering the gourmet options on the most luxurious airlines in the world.

Loud Cabin Noise Can Affect How Your Food Tastes

Loud Cabin Noise Can Affect How Your Food Tastes

iStock

In addition to taste and smell, your hearing can also affect how you experience food. According to recent studies, constantly hearing loud noises while you’re eating can cause your food to taste less sweet and less salty to you. Listening to music on your headphones can counter this, however!

Meat Is Not Fully Cooked

Meat Is Not Fully Cooked

iStock

Beef is cooked only 30 percent to completion, and chicken only 60 percent, before being brought on board. Not to worry, however. The meat is then cooked the rest of the way on board in the airplane’s convection or steam oven after getting blast-chilled in special fridges before transfer.

Menus Are Planned Up to a Year in Advance

Menus Are Planned Up to a Year in Advance

Dreamstime

Airlines plan their in-flight menus at least six months in advance, and sometimes up to a full year ahead of time.

Menus Are Planned Very Carefully for Financial Reasons

Menus Are Planned Very Carefully for Financial Reasons

iStock

A lot goes into all that planning, down to every single ingredient. American Airlines famously saved $40,000 a year in 1987 by getting rid of just one olive from their salads. According to Delta Airlines, 60 percent of the cost of each meal is because of the actual entrée, while appetizers make up 17 percent, salads 10 percent, and desserts account for seven percent. Delta saved $250,000 a year by shaving just one ounce from their steaks, and similar to American, removed a single strawberry from their in-flight salads (served in first-class on domestic routes) for savings of $210,000 a year.

Millions of Tons of Airline Trash Were Accumulated Last Year

Millions of Tons of Airline Trash Were Accumulated Last Year

iStock

Just last year, airlines around the world generated a total of 5.2 million tons of trash. This statistic includes amenities such as toothbrushes, magazines, and more, as well as toilet waste, but a significant portion comes from waste from in-flight meals. The waste is either incinerated or sent to landfills. While unused blankets and pillows can be donated, most airlines are still having difficulty figuring out a way to donate uneaten meals, although one Australian charity has already found a way.

Not Eating on the Plane Can Be Bad for Your Health

Not Eating on the Plane Can Be Bad for Your Health

iStock

Make sure you don’t go hungry during your flight! Neglecting to eat during your journey could cause your blood sugar levels to drop, making you feel weak and shaky. This can also lead to headaches and changes in mood. It won’t help you fight jet lag either if you’re traveling to a different time zone; it can actually worsen its effects.

Pilots Have Different Meals

Pilots Have Different Meals

Dreamstime

Co-pilots on a flight are given different meals. It’s rare for in-flight meals to give you food poisoning, but this is done as an added precaution to make sure both pilots don’t get sick!

Sauce Is the Way to Go

Sauce Is the Way to Go

iStock

Not only does the dry air at a high altitude dry out your sinuses, it also dries out your food! Sauce-based dishes such as pastas and curries do better as in-flight meals due to the fact that they are moist by nature. That’s why most airlines tend to have saucy dishes, and why you should try to order them where you can.

The September 11th Attacks Affected In-Flight Dining

The September 11th Attacks Affected In-Flight Dining

Dreamstime

The terrorist attacks on 9/11 not only affected airline costs and security measures at airports — they changed in-flight dining as well. As a result, airline carriers started to use plastic utensils instead of reusable cutlery, costing some airlines financially. This was the reason why many of them, particularly in the U.S., stopped offering full meals and began giving out peanuts and soft drinks instead. Luckily, however, some airlines such as Delta have started to bring back free meals.

Snacks Are Actually Unlimited

Snacks Are Actually Unlimited

Shutterstock

Flight attendants might not want you to know this, but the snacks on a plane are actually totally unlimited. As long as everyone has already had theirs, feel free to politely ask one of the cabin crew for seconds.

Tomato Juice Tastes Better in the Air

Tomato Juice Tastes Better in the Air

iStock

As a result of the differences in taste perception, a study found that most people who order tomato juice on a flight would never order it otherwise.  Tomato juice has a nice, fruity taste on an airplane, as opposed to the earthy taste observed on the ground.

Umami Is Unaffected

Umami Is Unaffected

Dreamstime

Umami, the fifth taste besides salty, sweet, sour, and bitter, is the only taste that is unaffected at such a high altitude. For reference, that’s the savory taste you get from foods such as tomatoes, spinach, shellfish, and soy sauce. That’s probably why you see so many in-flight meals with tomato in them, in addition to all the tomato juice served on board.

Water On-Board Is Disgusting

Water On-Board Is Disgusting

iStock

When the flight attendant asks you if you would like some tea or coffee, we recommend you skip it. The water on board comes from a tank that isn’t cleaned as often as it should be, resulting in dirty and stale water. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency found that one in eight American airplanes did not meet their standards for water safety, and that the tap water supply on 12 percent of commercial planes tested positive for fecal bacteria.

You Can Buy In-Flight Meals on the Black Market

You Can Buy In-Flight Meals on the Black Market

iStock

Even airline food can hit the black market, and you can get pretty good deals too. This is particularly prevalent in India. A bottle of Tropicana juice can go for as low as 32 cents! Most of it comes from airline employees who stole the food off the plane, but some of it even comes from airport dumpsters where people find plenty of unused meals and drinks.

You Consume Way More Calories on a Flight Than You Normally Would

You Consume Way More Calories on a Flight Than You Normally Would

iStock

The average British passenger consumes more than 3,400 calories between check-in before departure and arrival at their destination, according to one estimation. We imagine this isn’t much different for most other passengers (and if anything, higher for Americans). This has been attributed to multiple factors, including higher salt and sugar in airplane food as a result of decrease in taste perception, the fact that people tend to eat more when watching a movie or TV show (as they are wont to do on a flight), and just plain old boredom.

Your Tray Is Meant to Be Recognizable

Your Tray Is Meant to Be Recognizable

Dreamstime

Airline food is planned so that it is recognizable to the average passenger, particularly in economy class. The menu tends to consist of foods that most people will be willing to eat, even if it’s not their favorite. As a result, international airlines also have different menus for different routes, so as to cater to the people from those regions. If you want to make sure you enjoy your next in-flight meal, here are 10 of the best in Europe.

Click for full story
25 Crazy Facts About Airplane Food