Why is Tomato Juice so Popular on Airplanes?

Tomato juice is unusually popular among airplanes passengers, but why is that? Why do people drink so much tomato juice when flying?

For example, Lufthansa is a German airline company which serves 200,000 liters (53,000 gallons) of tomato juice a year to its passengers. That’s extremely close to the 223,000 liters (59,000 gallons) of beer they served annually. But how come tomato juice is almost on par with beer for air flight passengers?

The answer comes from science: when flying, the human taste buds suffer a temporary taste affliction, making it harder to taste sweet and salty flavors by about 30%. This is a physiological result of the cabin’s low pressure, loud engine noise, and absent humidity. Although some taste functions are reduced, the umami (one of the five basic tastes) flavor perception is unchanged, making tomato juice taste better than ever. That’s why passengers rate tomato juice as one of the tastiest foods onboard. Similar studies found that spicy, bitter, and sour flavors also remain unchanged.

There’s also a historical reason for its popularity: in the beginning of commercial air flights, alcohol was free of charge and in huge demand. Soon companies began charging for the booze but left the mixers such as tomato juice free of charge, making it a popular choice for people because it was free and tasty! This tradition survived til this day, and airline companies conduct taste tests in simulated depressurized cabins.

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