But maybe the airlines aren't totally at fault. And maybe the food service companies they buy their food from isn't at totally at fault either.
Science finally has an explanation. No, they didn't figure out what that mystery meat is. This is actually quite interesting and something I'd never even considered.
According to this article on Fox News' website, the altitude plays a major factor in how your food tastes at 35,000 feet.
“Your ability to taste food and wine decreases thirty-percent at altitude,” says Talling-Smith. Howard Hillman’s The New Kitchen Science (Mariner Books) confirms that flying decreases not just taste bud sensitivity but sense of smell.
“Cabin pressure,” writes Hillman, “decreases the volatility of the odorant molecules,” meaning there’s not a whole lot of aromas at altitude. (Ever notice that it gets stinky when you start de-planing?) Further, the cabin’s ultra-dry atmosphere “dehydrates the entire body” and also “impairs the passenger’s olfactory sensory mechanism,” i.e. ability to smell.
The article goes on to explain that drinking diuretics like coffee and alcohol can amplify the problem even further.
If you were to taste the food on the ground, it might not be all that bad.
At least one airline, British Airways, is trying to "pump up" the flavor of their onboard meals with more herbs and spices to try and make the food a little better when served to passengers.
So the next time you fly and are choking down a piece of rubbery chicken, don't blame the airline. Blame the altitude.