The strange phenomenon of the large amounts of tomato juice being consumed in flight annually actually warranted a study by a German institute to explain why people drink tomato juice when flying. While many weird behaviors are noticed among the millions of people that fly daily, this is one oddity that has been observed frequently. People who wouldn’t normally drink tomato juice while their feet are on the ground, develop a sudden craving for this earthy fruit juice when up in the air.

German airline Lufthansa noted that tomato juice was second only to beer in the drinks consumed in flight. Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics decided to do a study on this enigma and obtained some interesting results. People were tested at pressure approximating being in flight, as opposed to being at relative sea level. It was found that due to various aspects, tomato juice tasted much better than it would normally. Cabin pressure is low causing less oxygen supply to the blood, reducing the sense of smell and taste. Humidity is low as well drying out your nose and mouth and mucus in the nasal cavities increases, basically giving you the feeling of enjoying your food and drink while suffering from a head cold. The usual earthy, musty flavor people experience when drinking tomato juice on Terra firma, is replaced with a fruity acidity, which most people report to be refreshing when flying.

Other aspects to ordering tomato juice include the feeling of fullness people experience when drinking this thick juice and some report less nausea and air sickness. Another reason is more human nature than anything else, people see others drinking the juice and decide to try it or they are offered it by the flight attendants and think “Why not?”.

Using this knowledge, maybe airlines can come up with food that tastes better at altitude as well