Why Is Airplane Food So Bad? (11 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Airplane flights are exciting – you’re heading into the air, preparing to embark on a new adventure. There is one thing that isn’t amazing on an airplane – the food.

Why is airplane food so bad? What makes it terrible? It’s so confusing that food items on an airplane are worse than in any other place. Why is it so awful in the mouth?

Why Is Airplane Food So Bad?

1. Our Taste Buds Change

When you’re on an airplane, you travel to heights humans rarely touch. The pressure can cause your taste buds to swell, which makes food taste different than on the ground.

Most of the time, this swelling can make airplane foods taste unappealing to the average traveler. Even if airplane food is good on the ground, it won’t taste the same in the air.

Your taste buds will change in the air in response to the change in cabin pressure. It’s critical to anticipate this shift if you plan to eat an entire meal on the airplane.

2. It’s Ill-Prepared

Airplane food is made in mass, as it has to sustain thousands of people. Food in an airplane, made in haste, doesn’t taste as good as it would if it were on the ground.

The speed at which the airplane food is made can result in ill proportions. It’s often packaged poorly and heated up in a way that makes it taste odd. This factor can be an issue.

An airplane meal might look appealing – but the taste won’t match the appearance. You should anticipate a meal that is not as well-made as something in a quality restaurant.

3. Storage Lacks Quality

It’s tricky to store meals for thousands of people. These food items move in and out of storage fast, multiple times a day to make room for additional meals.

A lack of proper storage can cause a funny taste to some meals and it can even ruin a few of them. Unfortunately, many ill-stored meals are heated and then served to customers.

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Some meals require refrigeration, while others can survive at room temperature. It can be tricky to handle the food necessary to feed many passengers.

4. It’s Doused In Fluid

Most companies douse their airplane meals in a fluid to keep them together. This action can make them soggy and less appealing to ingest for a meal.

Sometimes, the fluid is delicious gravy. Other times, it’s a watery liquid that feels like they dumped water right on top of the meal.

You can research the meal ahead of time to note the sauce options. If you don’t like the meal, avoid it and attempt to bring a meal for yourself in the air.

5. Our Sense Of Smell Shifts

On an airplane, the pressure messes with many aspects of the human body. One of the most prominent is a sense of smell – an item that drastically affects the taste of the meal.

Smell impacts the taste. The less you can smell, the worse your taste can get. The pressure has a drastic shift on this part of your face.

Your sense of smell will return to normal once you land. Still, in the air, it’s obnoxious to lose the ability to smell. It makes airplane food taste worse than you’d ever think.

6. There Are Fewer Seasonings

There Are Fewer Seasonings

Airplane food comes to life in haste, and thanks to this fact, there are often fewer seasonings hidden inside the meal. This lack can make them taste bland and unappealing.

It takes a little salt and pepper to improve a meal, but some companies don’t even have that. If you’re desperate, bring your salt and pepper packets on a plane for added flavor.

Airplanes rarely add extra seasonings, like red pepper flakes and thyme. If you get these items in your dish, you are one of the luckiest travelers on the market today.

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7. You’re In A Poor Environment

Airplanes are loud. They are noisy and busy. In this poor environment, the food might taste worse. It’s not exactly a five-star restaurant in the sky.

A poor environment can make a massive difference. Eating steak in a quiet, low-light restaurant is different from eating a steak off of a dirty tray table with screamings kids.

It doesn’t take much to remember, but not everyone can do that. The environment impacts how you live the rest of your life in terms of airplane food.

8. Expectations Are High

Going into an airplane meal, you may have high expectations for the airplane meal. The food rarely lives up to expectations – and that can make it taste worse to some.

The lower your expectations, the better it will be for your airplane experience. Set the bar low for the ideal results with your airplane meal. It might not be good, but it will be okay.

High expectations can ruin many get-togethers. Try to set the bar as low as possible to avoid the disappointment that comes with airplane food. The lower you can go, the better.

9. It’s A Business Endeavor

It’s critical to acknowledge that these meals are a business endeavor. You are a customer, and they are there to make money off you at the end of the day. They want a profit.

You can even research airplane meals ahead of time to determine which is the best. There are plenty of sites that offer reviews for the meals they’ve had in the air.

The more money a company can make, the better. This factor might mean raising the prices for meals the more that people invest in them. Good food is rare, so review it when you find it.

10. Noise Impacts Taste

Flights are noisy. Although you can drown them out, planes are full of the engine sound, people talking, and more. The sound can be about 80-85 dBA once in flight.

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Believe it or not, the noise can impact the taste of the food. The pounding on the eardrums can make food taste bland, even if it’s better on the ground.

This noise makes tomatoes and similar items taste better on a flight. There’s something about the vibrations that make the flavor work in the mouth, so order items with tomatoes.

11. Meals Are Made In Mass

Meals for an airplane are made en masse, often by a company dedicated to airplane meals. Bulk meals result in food that isn’t made as well as something made one item at a time.

In bulk meals, you might see a presentation that is poor to the eyes. There might be fewer seasonings or ingredients that don’t work very well together on a plate.

If you notice an odd taste or poor presentation, the meal was likely made in a large group. The more meals that are made, the worse the airplane food is going to taste.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why hospital food is so bad, why jail food is so bad, and why school food is so bad.


Airplane food is rarely good, and many factors contribute to that taste. From the poor environment to fewer seasonings, the nasty food makes more sense.

If you have an airplane ride, plan on eating poor food. You can also pack a snack or a meal ahead of time if you want to avoid airplane food altogether.


  • Maisie Hughes

    Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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