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Why do people drink tomato juice on airplanes?

Have you ever wondered?

Tomato juice, yes or no? © Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

The next time you catch a transatlantic flight, look at what people are asking to drink. Had you registered before the amount of people asking for tomato juice? The exact proportion is difficult to say, but it is significant enough to keep the anecdote. If you had not noticed on any of your previous flights, from now on, you will.

United Airlines He learned recently too. The airline announced earlier this year that it would review its menu on domestic flights of less than four hours. One of the planned changes, along with the replacement of hot breakfasts with muffins and whole meals for burritos, it would be the Elimination of tomato juice from the list of drinks.

To the company's surprise, the passengers went into a rage. And they did not remain silent, no: they expressed themselves openly on social networks. Such was the avalanche of enraged GIFs and threats with not flying again with United that the company He retracted a few days later.

What is it about tomato juice that arouses passions at heights, even among those who are reluctant to ask for it at sea level? Apparently, there is an explanation (or several).

They ask for more tomato juice than you think… © Getty Images


United was not the first airline to realize the popularity of the drink (although, probably, it is the first to never be forgotten). In 2010, Lufthansa He calculated that 200,000 liters of tomato juice had been consumed on his flights, almost reaching 225,000 beer. Intrigued, the company commissioned a study to the Fraunhofer institute to clarify the reasons. What are we going to say, the airline is German: anything that can unseat beer as a favorite beverage is worthy of observation.

The institute discovered that the fault of the tomato juice having so many fans at 11,000 kilometers is, in fact, the plane. The senses are affected by humidity levels, which are famously low in the cabins: between 10 and 15%, compared to 50-60% of an optimum level of well-being. Its environment dries the nose and mouth, stunning the taste buds and the pituitary. Add the low pressure, which lowers the blood oxygen level, and you end up with a weak reception of the flavors and smells.

The result? A strong and acidic taste, such as tomato juice, sounds very appealing. "At sea level, tomato juice has an intense flavor, not very fresh," said Ernst Derenthal, catering manager at Lufthansa when the study came out. “Instead, as soon as you drink it at 11,000 kilometers, it shows its best face. It is more acidic, has a slightly mineral flavor, and is very refreshing. ”

In the air it tastes better © Getty Images


There is another theory about why tomato juice is so appealing in the air, and it focuses on another sense: the ear. According to a professor at Cornell University, the decibel level interferes with the perception of taste, Especially sweet. With an average of 85 decibels, the ears suffer much more in a metal tube furrowing the sky at 800 kilometers per hour than at home (the optimum level would be 55 decibels, at most). The magic of synesthesia means that, in an airplane, the sweet taste is less appealing to us, due to the simple fact that it will know nothing.

Therefore, without thinking, we gravitate more towards the salty; or better yet, towards the combination of sweet and savory, which the Japanese poetically call umami. Tomato juice is a classic exponent of umami, which makes him the great winner of the air bar.

Facing the noise of the plane, helmets ... and salty food © Getty Images


Beyond the scientific explanations, the popularity of the drink may be due to something much simpler: rationalization and social influence.

On the one hand, as Sam Wolfson argues in The Guardian, choosing a drink on a plane is a somewhat unusual situation. You have to make a quick decision, and being free, you want to extract the maximum possible benefit. A tomato juice sounds extravagant, unusual; The perfect drink for an extravagant and unusual situation such as flying. And it has plus: it sounds like healthy food (whether or not it is another matter).

The other possible reason is much less philosophical and more visual: the social "pressure". As with popcorn at the cinema or pipes in a football stadium, passengers ask for tomato juice when they see their flight partners also ask for it. The suggestion is a very powerful weapon, and in a closed place with limited options such as an airplane, even more.

And of course, there is the asterisk: we order tomato juice because You can cheer up with a splash of vodka. If you turn the juice into a Bloody Mary aerial, we will keep your secret. Also has.

We like it better like this © Getty Images

Video: Why people drink tomato juice on planes (March 2020).

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