Drinking In-Flight? Why You Should Leave Bloody Marys On The Ground

Poor selection and disposable packaging aren't the only reasons in-flight food and drink options leave a lot to be desired. Turns out, the combination of high altitude and pressurized cabins actually dulls our senses. It's true, notes BBC Future. Our ability to discern sweetness and saltiness when tasting food drops by about 30% when airborne. Our sense of smell is likewise compromised, due to plunging air pressure and the low percentage of humidity in pressurized cabins. Strangely, however, our capacity for tasting other flavors — think sour and spicy — remains largely the same.

This anomaly helps to explain why a few foods and beverages not only remain palatable when enjoyed at 30,000 feet but in a few rare cases can even taste better. That's certainly the case with tomato juice, observes Reader's Digest. This is partially due to the presence of umami — umami, like sour and spicy flavors, is relatively unaffected by altitude or cabin pressure — but also because the earthiness of tomato juice is altered by the in-flight conditions, and tastes fruitier and sweeter than normal. Additionally, in-flight noise levels have been shown via research studies to positively affect some tastes — notably, umami (via Travel + Leisure).

Despite the great taste of tomato juice in an airline setting, however, that doesn't necessarily mean ordering a Bloody Mary is a good idea. In fact, according to Travel + Leisure, flight attendants recommend against it, for reasons which have nothing to do with flavor.

Why inflight Blood Marys may be a bad idea

According to a former flight attendant who spoke to Travel + Leisure, Bloody Marys are one of three items she would definitely not advise passengers to enjoy on a flight. The reason? Bloody Marys are high in sodium, and thus can more easily cause dehydration during air travel. Yes, this is a real issue. As the Center for Family Medicine explains, the decreased humidity in pressurized cabins in-flight puts travelers at greater risk for dehydration, which could potentially result in symptoms such as dizziness and fatigue.

Of course, travelers can just drink more water, right? Sue Fogwell, a flight attendant for more than two decades, believes airline tap water should likewise be avoided due to potential contaminants, per Travel + Leisure. Cans or bottles of water are just fine, however. So if you do decide to give this alcoholic beverage a try on your next trip, just make sure to load up on bottled water between cocktail servings.