How low cabin humidity impacts taste, smell, and health

Flying can be a fascinating experience, but you might have noticed that your food and drinks taste different—or even bland—compared to how they do on the ground. This is a direct result of the extremely dry air in airplane cabins, where humidity levels can drop as low as 5%. However, there's a solution to this issue. Let's delve into how dry cabin air affects your senses and what CTT Systems' Humidifier Onboard is doing to enhance your health and in-flight dining and drinking experience.
How low cabin humidity impacts taste, smell, and health - by CTT Systems
Table of Contents

The science behind dry air in airplane cabins

Airplane cabins are known for extremely low humidity levels, often as low as 5%. This is significantly lower than the average indoor and healthy humidity levels, typically between 30% and 50%. 

Low cabin humidity levels result from the extremely dry air pumped into the cabin at cruising altitude. The lack of moisture in the air means that the natural moisture in your skin and body evaporates more quickly, leading to dehydration. 

Low humidity dries out nasal passages and mouth

The low humidity in airplane cabins can cause the mucous membranes in your nasal passages and mouth to dry out. These mucous membranes are essential for keeping the sense of taste and smell functional. When these areas become dry, it can diminish the ability to perceive flavors and aromas. Here’s how this process works: 

Nasal passages – How food and beverage smells

The sense of smell, or olfaction, is crucial in flavor perception. Dry nasal passages can impair the olfactory receptors, reducing their ability to detect aromas. This is significant because much of what you perceive as taste comes from your sense of smell. When the nasal passages are dry, the receptors cannot effectively capture and send scent signals to the brain, leading to a dulled taste experience. 

Mouth – How food and beverage tastes

A dry mouth affects the ability to taste by reducing the saliva production necessary to dissolve food particles and carry them to the taste buds. The taste buds cannot interact with the food molecules efficiently without adequate saliva, resulting in a blander taste. This reduction in saliva also makes it difficult to detect subtle flavors, particularly those in complex dishes or beverages like wine. 

Low humidity diminishes the sense of taste for food and beverages

The combination of dry nasal passages and mouth significantly diminishes your sense of taste for both food and drink. Here’s how: 

Food taste less

Foods that rely on a balance of flavors, such as sweet, salty, bitter, and umami, become less enjoyable. The dryness hampers your ability to taste these flavors accurately, making meals seem bland and unappetizing. For example, savory or sweet foods may taste less intense and more one-dimensional. 

Beverages taste different

Beverages, particularly those with complex flavor profiles like wine, are also affected. Reduced humidity can alter your perception of wine’s acidity, sweetness, and tannins. For instance, red wines might taste more tannic and astringent, while white wines might lose their crispness and appear flatter. This can lead to a less enjoyable drinking experience, as the wine’s flavor profile nuances are lost. 

Health implications of in-flight food and beverages

Airlines often add extra salt and sugar to in-flight meals and beverages to compensate for the reduced taste sensitivity experienced due to low humidity. The unique conditions of airplane cabins, such as low humidity and pressurized environments, dull the senses of taste and smell. Studies have shown that dry cabin air and reduced air pressure can decrease the sensitivity of taste buds by up to 30%, making it harder to detect sweet and salty flavors. 

Negative health effects of increased salt and sugar

While adding more salt and sugar improves the taste of in-flight meals, it can have negative health implications, especially for frequent flyers and individuals with specific dietary restrictions. 

High blood pressure and cardiovascular risks

Excessive salt intake is linked to increased blood pressure, which can elevate the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. High-sodium meals, such as during frequent air travel, can contribute to long-term health issues. 

Increased risk of diabetes and obesity

Elevated sugar levels in food and beverages can lead to spikes in blood glucose levels. Over time, this can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and contribute to weight gain and obesity. Frequent consumption of sugary in-flight snacks and drinks can exacerbate these risks. 


High salt content in meals can exacerbate dehydration, which is already a concern due to the low humidity levels in airplane cabins. If not appropriately managed during flights, dehydration can lead to discomfort, fatigue, and more severe health issues. 

Positive effects of normal humidity with Humidifier Onboard

CTT Systems Humidifier Onboard adds moisture to the dry cabin air, maintaining humidity levels at comfortable – and healthy – ground-like levels. 

The humidifier system enhances the sensory enjoyment of in-flight dining and significantly improves your health, comfort, and overall well-being. Here are some positive effects you will get: 

Enhanced taste and aroma of food and beverages

The Humidifier Onboard enhances the taste and aroma of food and beverages. Moist nasal passages improve olfactory function, allowing you to fully experience your meals’ flavors and aromas. This means food tastes more vibrant and drinks retain their complex profiles, making in-flight dining a more enjoyable and satisfying experience. 

Improved health and comfort

Hydrated nasal passages and mouths reduce the risk of dehydration and associated discomforts, such as dry skin and eyes. Additionally, you are less likely to suffer from headaches and fatigue, often caused by low cabin humidity. This overall improvement in comfort contributes to a more pleasant and restful flight. 

Reduced need for added salt and sugar

Airlines can reduce the amount of salt and sugar added to in-flight meals. Your taste buds are more sensitive and can better appreciate the natural flavors of food, eliminating the need for excessive seasoning. This makes meals healthier and helps you avoid the negative health effects of high salt and sugar consumption. 

Better hydration and overall well-being

You are less likely to experience the negative effects of dehydration, such as dry mouth, skin irritation, and overall discomfort. Staying well-hydrated supports better overall health, including improved digestion and reduced susceptibility to colds and other illnesses. This makes the flight experience more pleasant and reduces post-flight fatigue and malaise. 

A healthier and more tasteful air travel experience with Humidifier Onboard

CTT Systems’ Humidifier Onboard significantly improves cabin humidity, creating a more comfortable and healthier passenger environment. Improved cabin humidity helps keep nasal passages and mouths hydrated, which preserves the sense of taste. This enhancement allows you to enjoy the flavors of food and beverages better, such as wine, making the in-flight dining experience more enjoyable, satisfying, and healthy. 

Welcome onboard an airplane with a Humidifier Onboard 
 for a healthy and tasteful in-flight dining experience 

What to read next
How dry cabin air affects your fatigue and sleep 
➔ Say goodbye to dry skin with Humidifier Onboard airplane
➔ The importance of humidity for human health

➔ White paper: Importance of aircraft cabin humidity – from a scientific point of view
➔ Our product Humidifier Onboard

➔ Contact us for more information about optimizing humidity in your aircraft 


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