Depending on the airline you take, flying oscillates between tolerable and hellish, but no one harbors any illusions about in-flight food. That’s because it’s almost universally awful, and if you’re taking a long, international flight, you’re going to have to eat it, even if it makes you gag.
But what makes airline food so terrible across the board? The BBC asked several airline experts what exactly makes the experience of eating at sky-high altitudes so damn mediocre.
It might not be all that surprising to hear that food isn’t actually cooked on large, commercial airliners, due to limitations with space and other essential resources, like, um, kitchens. But the tough, sinewy meat that’s served to you on an airplane was reheated, and most likely zapped by a microwave to maximize speed when serving a crowded flight.
As John Hansman, the director of the International Center for Air Transportation at the Massachusetts Technology explains: "It’s actually very hard to cook at those altitudes...they generally are just doing reheating.”
In fact, everything about serving food to a sold-out flight of more than 300 patrons revolves around efficiency. Your food is even pre-cut, so flight attendants don’t have to supply you with knives. This is also a precautionary measure, because no one likes a knife wielding maniac, and especially on an airplane.
As Albright College professor Guillaume de Syon explains:
“Airlines have discovered that, if you also pre-cut the meat, you practically don’t need a knife,” he said, adding that "because it's been so overcooked, you can cut it with a fork."
Now, this all sounds like a bit of logical information that you might be able to glean without the aid of an MIT professor, but it certainly is instructional to hear it from someone who has the credentials.
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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.