The Real Reason Why Airplane Food Tastes Bad

March 1, 2017, 6:36 PM UTC
Airline meals served on seat tables
Juan Silva Getty Images

Everyone knows most airplane food isn’t exactly haute cuisine — and scientists understand why.

A range of factors impact our sense of taste on flights, as found in a number of studies (some of them funded by airlines), according to the New York Times. Background noise makes sweet and salty flavors less strong. Dry air suppresses our sense of smell, making most food taste bland. Low air pressure, plastic utensils and cups don’t help either.

But now, airlines are taking steps to counteract these obstacles: On Wednesday, Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific announced a new beer crafted specifically to taste good in flight, the Times reports. The brew is made with honey and longan berries, which translates to “dragon eyes.” Other airlines have experimented with playing tinkling music to help bring out sweet flavors.

The only taste that’s actually enhanced at high altitudes is umami, the savory taste—which is why a Bloody Mary is the most popular cocktails on commercial flights.