Why Do People Crave Tomato Juice on Airplanes?

There's an actual reason so many people drink tomato juice during flights.

glass of tomato juice on a table in an airplane close to the airplane window

Where would you say are the two most common places to see someone drinking tomato juice? Our guess? At brunch and on an airplane. And on an airplane, most people are drinking it straight.

The German airline, Lufthansa, commissioned a study some years back when they realized how much tomato juice they were serving on flights — over 1.5 million liters (equal to about 400,000 gallons). And that's just one airline! They were serving as much tomato juice as they were beer and they wanted to know why.

We would like to know too. So what's up with people ordering tomato juice on the plane? Even though you might feel like you're stuck inside a V8 commercial, there's actually a scientific reason people crave tomato juice while in the air.

Why Do People Order Tomato Juice on Airplanes?

First, food tastes different while you're in the air. That dry, pressurized cabin that you're in is actually weakening your sense of smell. Because your sense of smell plays a big part in how you taste, your sense of taste is weakened too. Similarly, and interestingly, the background noise of the plane also affects your taste.

All that to say, normal foods may taste blander while you're on the plane. That's why some people turn to tomato juice. Because tomato juice typically has a tartness and added spices, making the juice taste more flavorful than most drinks when in the air.

Additionally, while your taste buds' ability to taste certain flavors is impacted by flying, there is one flavor that isn't impacted at all: umami — and tomato juice is known for its umami flavor. So while your sweet soda may taste weird or diluted at 30,000 feet, the savory, umami flavors of tomato juice will be more pronounced.

Benefits of Drinking Tomato Juice While Flying

Beyond the fact that tomato juice just tastes great while on an airplane, some people like to drink it for the health benefits. Being in that dry, pressurized cabin isn't great for you or your body because flying is a major source of dehydration and it can expose you to a lot of germs.

Lucky for you, tomato juice can help replenish your electrolytes — and it's also high in vitamin C to boost your immune system. So if you're feeling like your nose, throat, or even skin are drying out, you should order tomato juice to rehydrate yourself.

Tomato juice is also a pretty filling beverage. Traveling by air can make for a long day with not a lot of food involved, so indulging in a glass of tomato juice can make you feel full while you're flying and only able to eat a small snack.

And, we'll let you in on a little secret: ordering the Bloody Mary may be better than just plain tomato juice. We like to tell ourselves that Bloody Marys are already considered to be a "healthier cocktail" because they offer the benefits of electrolytes, vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants from the tomato juice. But when you're on a plane, your stress levels can be through the roof. So spiking your tomato juice with some vodka, which is a depressor, may help to calm you down a little bit.

But for some people, ordering a glass of tomato juice in flight is just part of the ritual of flying. There are a lot of beverage brands out there, and you don't always know which airline carries which beverage — so ordering tomato juice is often a safe bet. You know they're going to have it available and you know it's going to taste delicious. What more could you ask for when flying the friendly skies?

Edited by Andrea Lobas
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