Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Airline food has been the butt of jokes for a long time. The first of the year all of the airlines are going to be in a lot of trouble because the FAA has now passed a law that will require all airline food must taste like something. People just don't expect to get on an airline and enjoy the meal they're going to eat. But why does airline food taste so bad? Is it that the airlines are just too cheap to put money into their food? Or is there something else they play? The first airline meals were served on October 11th, 1919. It was aboard a Hanley page flight from London to Paris, featuring a pre-packed lunch box that costs interested passengers three shillings a piece. Pack lunches like the original consisting of sandwiches and fruit were common for decades following this first course. United Airlines stepped up the in-flight service in 1936, when they installed the first on-board kitchens making hot meals near a possibility. Having a kitchen wasn't possible until this point because engines were much weaker. So, much so that diverting power away from them towards an appliance like an oven, was somewhat dangerous. Back then, meals were things like egg salad, crab meat cocktails, lobster and sherbet. It also wasn't uncommon for planes to land where meals could be served at picnic tables. There were other reasons for needing to land like the need to refuel,b ut what's the rush. Everyone on the board is rich. Take your time. With kitchens, airlines could now serve hot and fresh meat that was repaired on board. On top of that, frozen meals, ones that were prepared earlier and then heated up in the sky also took off and dominated the 40s. By 1958, jet travel had spread throughout the US. But only the wealthy could enjoy the luxury offered in the skies. People certainly paid for that luxury. When adjusted for inflation, a TWA flight in the late 1950s, from Boston to L.A., cost $896. A quick google flight search and I found tickets for that same trip going for 120 in January of 2019. Just look at how comfortable these people appear in this Pan Am commercial intended to introduce people to the opulence they can expect on board. This is the atmosphere on a jet clipper flight. Delicious food adds to the enjoyment. It's prepared in full of simultaneously operating galleys, where dishes can be cooked in five minute ovens. During the late 50s, the 60s and early 70s, passengers could expect to see items like lobster, caviar, ham, Cornish game hens an things along those lines. Sometimes, meals were several courses and would last as long as two hours. In 1978, president Jimmy Carter, signed the Airline Deregulation Act. The law altered the course of the entire airline industry. Pan intended. Before the airline industry was deregulated, the Civil Aeronautics Board told which airlines could fly what routes and even set prices. Prices that congress had deemed to be inflated. With the Airline Deregulation Act, the government abolished the CAB creating a free and open market for airlines to decide what routes they want to fly, and what price they'd like to charge. This gave rise to the low cost carriers which are exactly what you think they are. The southwest of the world. The ramifications of the law still being felt today as airlines try and keep their overhead down as much as possible. But it seems to work for profit margins. Airlines like allegiant, spirit and frontier, they charge a low upfront fares and then hit you with fees are among the top in terms of their operating margins between costs and profits. So, is that it. Can we blame the 1978 Airline Deregulation Act and the fact that airlines try to keep their costs down as much as possible for the reason that airplane food is so bad. Well, no. That doesn't tell the whole story. Today, airplanes fly in the sweet spot of 35,000 feet where lower air pressure offers maximum fuel efficiency at a height above most weather events. The air inside the cabin is pressurized to simulate air at six to 8,000 feet in altitude. That's about the same height as Mount Olympus, in Washington state. Meanwhile, the air within a plane is that 20 percent humidity. Really dry. In fact, the Sahara Desert hovers around 25 percent humidity and there's a simple reason why. Over the course of their trip, planes recycle about 50 percent of their air. If they didn't, oxygen could become scarce with everyone filling it with carbon dioxide. Air pulled in at, let's say, 35,000 feet is really thin, meaning, there's not a lot of moisture. In fact, the air at that altitude can have as little as one percent humidity. The plane takes this air in and is able to pressurized it to feel like the air pressure of 68,000 feet, and then hydrated to 20 percent. But as I've said that's still extremely dry. So, what does this have to do with food on planes? The lack of humidity is an issue because it affects your ability to taste. Let's also remember that food can go dry, because it's under that same lack of humidity. Your sense of smell works with the moisture in the air and if that moisture is not there, you won't be able to taste things as well as you can on the ground. Germany's Fraunhofer Institute, studied the dulling of our taste buds on planes and found that on planes your ability to taste is about the same as someone with a Colt. Meaning, even if you're eating a meal prepared by the best chef in the world using the best ingredients, you wouldn't be able to taste it. But that's not all. A 2014, study conducted by Charles Spence, a psychologist from Oxford, found that constant loud noises such as a plane engine, also dulls your sense of taste. Spence's, quoted as saying in order for things that taste the same on the ground as they do in the air, airlines would need to add 30 percent more sugar or 30 percent more salt which sounds awful for your health. Airlines are looking into it, especially for their first class passengers, where they're trying to create a luxury experience. Lufthansa, reports that cinnamon, ginger, chilly and curry, don't need as much help to taste normal. Same with oranges and tomato oils, which probably explains why tomato juice is so popular on planes. So, we'll see if airlines can overcome our dull taste buds. Actually, let's be honest, most of us are not first class travelers and we're never going to have to worry about this. We'll just have to stick with our airport diets of fast food and candy. God bless America. Everyone, thank you so much for watching. 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