Tomato juice seems to be a favorite drink for many travelers to have on board an airplane. I've seen this on almost every flight I've been on, but I have never noticed this same trend at ground-level.

What are the reasons for that? Is there an origin of this trend?

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    He didn't ask for opinion.. he is asking why do travelers drink tomato juice and he never saw people other than travelers do, so he is wondering if tomato juice and travelling are connected somehow.. no opinions involved here.. maybe tomato juice helps in jetlag or so... got me? Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 16:51
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    Awesome question because it is about me:) I drink no tomato juice at home, but actually no juices at all. Me during my last 11hrs flight: alcohol? not advisable. Fizzy drinks? Yuck. Water? boring. Orange/apple juice? too sugary/sweet and from concentrate. Tomato? hmm less sugar. With salt and pepper? yes please! little adventure, keeps me busy for 30 seconds, hooray!
    – Rabbit
    Commented Aug 18, 2013 at 23:44
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    @Flimzy: I still don't agree that the health part is off-topic. There are 132 questions tagged with travel-related health on this site.
    – graup
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 3:36
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    @graup: "Is tomato juice healthier than orange juice" is not travel-related health. "Does tomato juice reduce jet lag/motion sickness/etc" would be... but that wasn't the question.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 5:57
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    Because everything else about flying is so unhealthy you feel like some nutrients. Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 13:15

9 Answers 9


According to some studies, tomato juice, and many other foods, actually taste different (better in the case of tomato juice) under the low pressure conditions in an airplane than they do at home.

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    This answer makes the question on-topic! Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 3:43
  • Even though I hate tomato juice even under low pressure...
    – Karlson
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 14:35
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    = serious observation/confirmation bias? Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 21:17
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    Tastes better with vodka, celery, lemon, pepper, salt and tabasco in it.
    – WW.
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 6:04
  • A recent study attributes taste alteration to loud noise. It confirms that tomatoes taste better because of umami.
    – mouviciel
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 7:01

I used to drink tomato juice religiously on airplanes and never at home. As I started to fly more, I stopped ordering it but I still do occasionally for nostalgia. The reasons are:

  • it is more filling and closer to food than other juices, especially with a little salt and pepper
  • it's more expensive than pop or other drinks, which both makes you feel like you're getting more value on the plane, and explains why many people don't drink it at home
  • a little goes a long way, which is another reason not to buy a large can at home - I would be unlikely to drink it all before it spoiled.
  • at some point the whole thing becomes a self fulfilling prophecy "oooh, I'm on a plane, I should have tomato juice, that's what people do on planes" and somebody watching you learns that tomato juice is simply de rigeur on the plane

I should point out that grocery stores do sell both large and small cans of tomato juice, and they get plenty of shelf space, so clearly some people are drinking it at home.

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    I've never seen tomato juice in a can, only in bottles and cartons. Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 3:44
  • might be a Canadian thing heinzitup.com/OurProducts Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 12:16
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    @KateGregory: Canned tomato juice is sold in the U.S. as well.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 16:37
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    Yeah, if you look in the obscure juice section (at least around the gmt-7 area of the US), you'll see these tiny cans, 8-oz I think, in a six-pack. You got your tomato juice, your prune juice, your white grapefruit juice, orange juice, etc., all stored at room temperature. Commented May 20, 2014 at 20:24

When I worked as cabin crew, people who order tomato juice sometimes order it warm and they ask for salt and pepper, I guess it is the closest thing to tomato soup. I also think it is a rich juice which will help them if they are hungry, it is heavy and it will make them feel full.

I've also seen fellow flight attendants in their rest time on long haul flights heat it in the oven or microwave and put some lemon, salt, pepper and croutons and voila! Tomato soup is ready.

Personally, I hate it for other reasons, if it's spilled on clothes, you can't just wipe it off and continue, you have to change it or it will smell awful in no time.


I'm astonished to see that nobody has posted the reason I drink tomato juice on planes -- they're an essential ingredient for a Bloody Mary!

enter image description here (courtesy William Clifford, Wikimedia Commons)

Although I do usually reserve this indulgence for ass-crack-of-dawn flights on Monday mornings and/or last flights out on Fridays, and naturally this requires an airline that doesn't charge you up the wazoo for a minibottle of vodka.

  • That looks wonderful. It just lacks something. Maybe a little clam juice?
    – Yakk
    Commented May 20, 2014 at 15:09
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    That looks like gazpacho in a cup. Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 18:51

Another hypothesis can be found in a Guardian article on how sound affects taste. The hypothesis is based on a previous study where it is found that a loud background noise suppresses the perception of sweetness and saltiness.

However, one researcher thinks that tomato juice has an umami taste, which might not be surpressed by the loud environment:

... Spence points out: "Have you ever noticed how many people ask for a bloody mary or tomato juice from the drinks trolley on aeroplanes? The air stewards have, and when you ask the people who order, they tell you that they rarely order such a drink at any other time." Spence reckons this is because umami may be immune to noise suppression.


Campbell's V8 drink is very popular and available throughout (convenience stores and such), while being basically a glorified tomato juice. And people do drink it at home. :)

One may also consider, that a typical long-haul flight carries people from very diverse cultural backgrounds. For example, tomato juice was a very popular beverage in former USSR, with vendors selling it by glass over the counter at every juice stand.

  • V8 is also a highly effective sodium delivery platform, as are most Campbell's products. Commented May 20, 2014 at 20:26

A further reason to those mentioned previously is that several sources have claimed tomato juice can prevent you from getting DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

According to, for example, the Daily Mail:

Eating tomatoes can help prevent airline passengers developing deep vein thrombosis, British scientists have proved.

The research has shown, however, that tomatoes contain a unique chemical which similarly thins blood[...]

So it's likely that it may not just be the taste, but people doing it for a safety reason.

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    You're getting science from the Daily Mail? :) Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 20:41
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    They almost never have original stuff, so my theory is they had to get it from somewhere ;) In this case, they actually cite the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, although sadly without a link.
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 11:17

For me, I have it only while flying domestic in the US. The reason is that out of the very limited selection of free stuff you can get from any US airline, tomato juice is the closest thing to some sort of savory, filling food-like substance.

This is especially true since these days they often don't even have peanuts or some of those mini pretzels or mini cookies for free.

In those other parts of the world where airlines actually serve you food and other good stuff, I have never asked for tomato juice. And outside of a plane, I have drunk it probably about once a year on average, throughout my lifetime.


Of all the drinks that are offered on board, other than water - tomato juice is the one that affects jet lag the least.

Coffee (and other drinks with caffeine, like tea and mountain dew/energy drinks) will dehydrate you, which causes eye irritation and increases the symptoms of jet lag. Alcohol does the same as above.

You are left then with natural fruit juices (difficult to find without added sugar); these tend to be too acidic as well.

Leaving you with humble tomato juice.

I have to say, outside the US I have not seen tomato juice offered (at least, I didn't spot it on the cart). Its usually some fruit cocktail, alcohol (if available), water, carbonated drinks and if you are lucky, ginger ale.

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