It depends. Before our somewhat dopey security efforts turned flying into a third-world experience, I have had some pretty good meals.
But efforts to create gourmet meals fall pretty flat - and there is a science reason why.
The Fraunhofer Institute did a study on why delicious food on the ground tastes dull in the air. In a mock aircraft cabin, researchers tried out ingredients at both sea level and in a pressurized condition—and the differences in taste were startling.
The tests revealed that the cabin atmosphere—pressurized at 8,000 feet—combined with the cool, dry cabin air makes your taste buds about the same as if you had a cold - and perception of saltiness and sweetness drops by around 30 percent at high altitude. The decreased humidity in the cabin dries out your nose and dulls the olfactory sensors essential for tasting the flavor of an ingredient or dish.
Credit: Peter Cade/Getty. Link: Conde Nast
Perhaps that is why there are decent restaurants in Denver, but in the sky, not so much.
Why Does Airline Food Taste So Bad? Turns Out, It’s All Your Fault by Barbara Peterson, Conde Nast Traveler