There’s a scientific reason why some things taste great on your flight and why others are just plane awful.

Ginger ale is one of the most popular drinks to order on an airplane, according to social media users, and it has to do with the way your tastebuds are altered during your flight, experts told Health. 

“The altered low pressure in the passenger cabin under flight conditions changes the oxygen saturation the blood,” Andrea Burdack-Freitag, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics in Germany told Health. 

If you think ginger ale tastes better on an airplane — you might be right. Getty Images

“As a result, some of the olfactory and taste receptors become less efficient.”

Burdack-Freitag — who studied people’s taste preferences on airplanes in 2011 — said that while up in the air, food and drinks taste similarly to the way they would if you had a cold. 

This means that more salt and sugar needs to be added to food served on a plane, but prepackaged foods and drinks can’t be changed. 

You won’t taste the usual sweetness of ginger ale while on a plane, but it will have a dry and crisp flavor. 

Low cabin pressure makes taste receptors for citrusy, salty and sweet flavors less effective whereas bitter, sour and earthy flavors remain relatively unchanged. 

The low humidity might be another reason your Canada Dry hits the spot.

“Dry air makes it more difficult to distinguish flavors. Our sense of smell reduces, which affects the way we taste our food,” Lisa R. Young, PhD, RDN, adjunct professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University told Health. 

Drinks like coffee and wine can fall flat while you’re on a flight — and certain foods too. 

“Coffee is more bitter in flight than on the ground, white wines tend to be too acidic,” Burdack-Freitag said. “Light dishes such as fish dishes or light sauces are described as being too tasteless.”

Cabin pressure and low humidity can impact your tastebuds. Steve Cukrov –
Carbonated beverages may help calm nausea. Brent Hofacker –

Soothes the stomach 

Ginger has long been known as a natural remedy for stomach pain, though that’s not why ginger ale might soothe your stomach on a flight if turbulence makes you ill.

Ginger ale isn’t made with real ginger but carbonated beverages can still calm nausea.

“It can help with an upset stomach and nausea when you have it in small sips, Rudolph Bedford, MD, a gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center told Health. 

Burping and farting, with some help from ginger ale, could give you the stomach relief you need — to the chagrin of fellow passengers around you. 

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