Today in a radio show the question why people drink much more tomato juice in airplanes than on the ground was raised. I noticed the seemingly excessive tomato juice consumption in airplanes already some time ago and was wondering about the reason for that behaviour. Many people noticed and thought the same I guess.
As far as I remember I always asked for tomato juice on the plane while on the ground I only bought like 2 tiny bottles of tomato juice in my entire life. I don’t like it. Maybe it tastes different on the ground. Or maybe it’s a kind of reflection when I’m asked by a stewardess instead of a waitress. I don’t know.
Googling this question brought me, amongst others, this article: “What’s with that glass of tomato juice on airplanes?“: The author argues with the fact that traveling by plane was an upper-class privileg back in the 1950ies, when civil aviation began its success. That audience brought their clubby lifestile including classy drinks like the bloody mary and ginger ale aboard then. Over the years flights became more popular and affordable by a broader public. The costums of the former wealthier passengers stayed in the planes and were adopted by the new emerging clientele. Tomato juice and ginger ale are, following that article, ordered to inhale a bit of the formerly exclusive flair.
That explanation doesn’t work for me. When I first went by plane I really doubt that I ordered the glass of tomato juice because of the noble atmosphere in there. Even if I got upgraded and sat next to a priest of the Vatican who intended to do some polite small talk on our flight to Rome. I saw the stewardess pouring tomato juice in somebody else’s glass and an overwhelming desire for a glass of the same delicious tomato juice just came over me. Before that day I only tasted tomato juice as a part of a bloody mary, keeping in mind that I wouldn’t call this drink my preferred one and I hardly would’ve bought tomato juice without vodka. Since then, since my first flight, I’m always having at least one glass of tomato juice on airplanes.
Another article cames up through Google containing some more statistics. “Tomate im Flug” states that about 3% of all tomato juice consumption in Germany takes place above ground level. That’s quite a lot compared to orange juice with an airplane-share of about 0.4%. The author assumes that passengers consider tomato juice as healthier than other drinks offered in planes and order them because of feeling a slightly upset stomach in the airplane. But why wouldn’t people do so once back on the ground? It wouldn’t came to my mind to drink tomato juice when feeling bad. At least it didn’t until today.
The article goes on with an interesting observation made by airlines while serving tomato juice: the tomato juice snowball effect. The first one is whetting other passenger’s appetite and there is good chance that demand is exploding after the initial tomato juice is served. I guess this explanation would work for me. If not already doing so, I’ll definetely start thinking about having a tomato juice after spotting someone elses glass filled up with a bright red liquid.
However, it’s an interesting phenomenon. Next time on the plane I’ll ask somebody why he/she is drinking tomato juice. Perhaps I’ll start my own little research on that strange human ritual.