What's the Best Airplane Snack?

A sad-looking airline meal
A sad-looking airline meal
Photo: Avitya (Wikimedia Commons)

Flying is objectively horrible. We let the magic of heavier-than-air transport cloud the fact that we pay hundreds of dollars to be squeezed into spaces too small for comfort so we can be treated like shit and spew greenhouse gas into the sky. Unless we’re rich or flying across the world, we usually don’t even get a free meal out of it.

Perhaps the main respite from the suffering is the plane snack, be it a glass of juice and pretzels from the cart or the snacks we bring ourselves. Claire Lower at Lifehacker set off the Gizmodo staff this week when she claimed that the best airplane snack was the mandarin orange. That made us wonder what the actual best airplane snack is.

First, the science. Food tastes different on planes. Your body is subjected to an environment as dry as a desert but at lower pressures, reducing your sensitivity to sweet and salty tastes, as the BBC has reported. This environment also dries up the mucus in our nose that assists in smelling, making the food taste even blander. Even the loud noise can change flavor. But when you’re screaming through the air inside of a metal hell, food is just about the simplest and perhaps only comfort.


What’s wrong with mandarin oranges? Nothing, really. I kinda like the idea of an orange for a plane snack, but I’m never quite satisfied by an orange. Other Gizmodo bloggers reeled at the thought of sitting next to someone emitting an orange scent and complained about getting their hands sticky or all of the mess from the peel and seeds. I prefer the pungent, salty flavors of Chex Mix, Bugles, or Combos. Science editor Rose Pastore countered that these snacks would be dehydrating in such a dry environment, and said that she thought the best plane snacks were Goldfish crackers (I don’t see how that’s a better option than any of my snack choices) and apple slices.

Gizmodo editor-in-chief Kelly Bourdet opts for trail mix with the raisins and chocolate removed and with an added bag of dried mango. I thought it sounded bland, but her rationale made sense: It’s filling, doesn’t smell, there’s no melty chocolate mess, and there aren’t crumbs. Alex Cranz, Gizmodo’s reviews editor, “just waits for the cheese plate,” and managing editor Andrew Couts brings beef jerky.

Then, there’s our resident orange-phobe and social media editor, Emily Lipstein. “Best airplane snack? Eating before you get on the plane,” she said.

Equally as important as the snack is the beverage. The staff generally agreed that tomato juice was a superior plane beverage—it seems to taste better in the loud, dry, lower-pressure environment. And, as the Guardian reports, it just feels like the best-bang-for-your-buck that makes you feel full in a place devoid of freely available food. I usually go for Fresca since I love Fresca but only remember that it exists when I’m on a plane.


So, what do you eat and drink in order to survive your flight?

Former Gizmodo physics writer and founder of Birdmodo, now a science communicator specializing in quantum computing and birds

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on mainland US carriers, the fruit and cheese tray is probably your best option.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, if you’re that ass who brings Chipotle/mcdonalds/chicken wings/Panda Express or any other fried, stinky, hydrogenated fats stink bomb, or Tuna Fish sandwiches (etc. etc.)  into the small, air-recirculating metal tube, you deserve to die the slowest of deaths.