While I personally have never found airline meals all that bad, they are stigmatized in popular culture as inedibly horrible. Researchers have been busy at work trying to figure out why. I would think artificial flavorings, preservatives, and cheap raw materials would offer a comprehensive explanation, but scientists have come to a different conclusion: noise is the culprit. And not just any noise–annoying noise.
According to researchers at the consumer product manufacturer Unilever and the University of Manchester. They say the annoyingly loud background noise from the airplane’s engines disturb our senses and make us enjoy our food that much less.
Apparently, certain loud noises reduce the ability to sense sweetness or saltiness. While this does not seem to be a problem at loud restaurants, there is something about the noise of a jet engine at 40K feet above the ground that dulls the senses.
Their suggestion to better enjoy airline meals: turn on your Bose noise-canceling headset.
Check out the accompanying video below (including a look at the way SQ does meals):