This piece originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.
You're not crazy: tomato juice does taste different when you're cruising 40,000 feet in the air. And it's not just tomato juice—food in general is going to be a little different when you eat on an airplane and there's science to back it up. Before we dig into the facts, let's get one thing straight. Those mass-produced in-flight meal recipes are partly to blame—all of that freeze-drying and vacuum sealing has to mess with taste a little bit. But airline chefs have made leaps and bounds in how they combat tricky airplane cabin climates to keep passengers full and happy about their meal choices.
An airplane cabin is actually drier than some deserts—humidity can measure in at less than 12 percent, in some cases. In an environment like this, your taste and smell start to drift. Scent actually starts to deteriorate the minute you step on to a plane, but nosedives once your airplane climbs. Sweet and salty foods are the ones that suffer the most. According to a study from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, the atmosphere in an airline cabin reduces your ability to detect these tastes by about 30 percent—think of it as your taste buds going numb. The good news: All of those other delicious flavors (spicy, bitter, sour) are still going to make an appearance mid-flight. So what to do when you're looking to make up for lost taste? Add more salt, of course—and that's exactly what the airlines do.