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Thoughts on the Airplane Beverage Cart

June 30, 2016

It would be hard to believe that anyone out there actually enjoys airplane travel these days. At most, we all try and make the best of it. And I’m sure everyone has their different strategies for coping with the inhumanity of it all.

As much as possible, I like to explore different airports during layovers, and try to find something delicious to eat. Although, sometimes, it proves to be an impossible task. Phoenix was looking bleak until I discovered that Cartel Coffee Lab has an outpost in the C section of Terminal 4. That sighting made me squeal with delight, and provided me with a delicious cortado for under $4.

Next door was a burrito shop, which wasn’t horrible. Although it was a bit painful ordering a fair-to-middling burrito after feasting on great Mexican food from Oakland’s International Boulevard, just the day before. Still, the airport burrito was a lot of calories for under $10, and chock full of vegetables. Eating more vegetables will be key to getting back onto my healthful diet.

But there are little joys that can be found in the simple pleasures of the airplane’s beverage cart, even if you don’t opt for something alcoholic.

In an era when airlines are nickel-and-diming their “guests” at every turn, it’s amazing that beverage service is still included with the price of a ticket. Sure, you may grump that in the old days flight attendants used to give you a whole can of soda, instead of just a cup. Or perhaps you remember the days when a can of beer could be purchased for less than $7.

Still, even though airplane tickets are remarkably expensive, it’s always fun to feel like you are getting something for free. Especially when small things like bottled water and sodas can cost a small fortune in the airport.

And then, there are all the choices.

I’m kind of curious what you all get when the flight attendant rolls around and asks if you would like something to drink. Soda is always a fun treat. If you are a looking for something to put a smile on your face, liquid candy can really do the trick. Especially, if you reserve it as an occasional indulgence.

For a while, I went with the stomach soothing choice of ginger ale. At one point, I’d ask for the sometimes unavailable Dr. Pepper, just to see how deep the selection on the beverage cart truly went. I had a period where I went classic, asking for Coke. Then there was the healthy choice of seltzer with a squeeze of lime. I hit a coffee phase, where it was all coffee all the time.

But recently, I’ve found faults with all of these. I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say, my drink du jour is: seltzer, no ice, with a splash of orange juice. The situation with orange juice still gets me irrationally angry, but just a touch of sugar and acid helps to make the seltzer more of a pick-me-up. So I make the compromise.

See? I can be flexible sometimes.

What I haven’t been able to figure out is the larger than expected fraction of people who order tomato juice on the plane. This seems to be a thing. And I don’t get it. I feel like it has to do something with health, but canned tomato juice is full of salt, and one of the biggest problems with air travel is dehydration.

My hope is that one of you is an airplane tomato juice drinker and can explain the phenomenon to me. The odds are in my favor that someone out there fills the bill. Whether or not that person has the desire to share their story publicly is another matter.

Be brave bold fussies, you can comment anonymously, and I promise not to be too judgy.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2016 8:45 am

    I drink a lot of low sodium V8. I started drinking it during a diet because I was tracking my nutrients and was lacking a bit of potassium. But now I just like it. Don’t know why. It’s one of the only non-alcoholic beverages containing calories that I will consume.

    I am a staunch, “no thanks” guy when the drink cart comes by. It falls under my “don’t ever inconvenience anyone in public including people whose jobs should probably include that minor inconvenience” rule. If seated next to you on a plane, I would give you fierce side-eye for that “splash of orange juice” business…. But if I was ever especially thirsty on a plain I would perhaps get the tomato juice… No real reason other than, “I just sort of like it.”

  2. June 30, 2016 9:08 am

    I fly Southwest, which serves Dr Pepper, and I always ask for Diet Doctor because it’s from Dallas like I am. That’s on a flight after 11 am or so. Before, I’ll ask for a “spicy tomato” which is what they call bloody mary mix. Often they leave the little can but if not, I’ll immediately ask for another after finishing the first. I also manage to drink a fair amount of water on the plane, either my own or requested, so am not concerned about the very high salt content.

    I am not familiar with the tomato juice phenomenon you mention. The thing I see people ordering most often is cranberry juice.

  3. June 30, 2016 9:34 am

    I think I’ve read that people like to order tomato juice on a plane because it is a salt/flavor bomb; You’re sense of taste is diminished at 30,000 feet and tomato juice is more flavorful to people than other drink options.

  4. Kerosena permalink
    June 30, 2016 9:53 am

    I drank it for years when traveling because I saw someone else order it once and it just sounded good. Also it’s more of a snack than a drink. Snacks>drinks.

  5. -R. permalink
    June 30, 2016 10:03 am

    Domestic flights: water

    International flights: beer, water, more beer, more water, repeat as needed

    I’ve always found tomato juice rather vile (just my 2¢).

  6. quack permalink
    June 30, 2016 11:52 am

    as part of the 3 ounce carry-on, those tiny bottles of vodka are allowed…..add to the spicy tomato juice and enjoy your (passable) bloody mary.

  7. Deedee permalink
    June 30, 2016 1:48 pm

    Tomato juice for me. It’s the only time I ever drink it. I didn’t know it was a “thing”

  8. Rebekah Tolley permalink
    June 30, 2016 2:45 pm

    My fav concoction on a long haul flight when wine is free is to get a bottle of white wine and cup of OJ (knowing that my trusty husband will always order a seltzer), then I make us “mimosas”

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