The Best Drink to Have on a Plane That’s Not Water

If you want some fizz, reach for this.

By Madeline Merinuk
airline

One of the most exciting things about flying is when the drink cart rolls around — mainly because there’s not much else going on to keep you entertained. I usually reach for a Coke or water if I’m feeling super dehydrated, but studies show there’s one drink that tops all others when you’re in the air: ginger ale. So why is this fizzy soda the best drink to have on a plane? It’s common knowledge that ginger ale has healing properties, including relieving arthritis pain or a stomach ache — but could its benefits actually be amplified at 40,000 feet above ground? Here’s what the experts say about choosing this fizzy drink the next time you fly.

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It Tastes Better

Did you know that your taste buds change while in the air? According to Travel + Leisure, the dry air that’s being recycled on the plane and the cabin pressure can both dull our sense of taste and smell, making certain food and drinks taste and smell differently than they do on the ground. Tastes like saltiness and sweetness are impacted the most. According to Dr. Michael Bohl, MD, this can be blamed on the lower air pressure and the dry air in the cabin. When you’re on a plane, the ginger ale’s extra sweetness probably won’t get detected on your taste buds, which makes it taste more refreshing and less sweet.

It’s Great for Nervous Flyers

You’ve heard that ginger ale can help heal an upset stomach, but Dr. Bohl says those healing properties are active on the ground and in the sky, making ginger ale perfect for people who get upset or nervous stomach while flying. “Researchers aren’t exactly sure what mechanism of action is responsible for ginger’s beneficial effects, but it’s believed to have something to do with components of ginger known as gingerols and shogaols,” says Dr. Bohl.

Even though some brands of ginger ale don’t really have actual ginger in them, the taste of ginger and the carbonation is enough to ease your stomach pain, he says. Dr. Bohl notes that he believes the healing properties may not be caused by the ginger at all; it could be a combination of the carbonation and the placebo effect. “If you’ve been told your whole life that ginger ale relieves nausea and then you have some, it’s likely you’ll feel better even if it isn’t really doing anything,” says Dr. Bohl. In regards to the bubbles, Dr. Bohl says that carbonation helps stretch the stomach with air and make it easier to burp, which may relieve feelings of nausea. So the possibility of any type of soda giving your stomach some relief is likely — but ginger ale is still your best option, especially if it contains real ginger. 

It’s Cleaner Than Other Drinks

One thing that you can be sure of when it comes to ginger ale is its cleanliness. And no, we’re not talking about the ingredients, we’re talking about the amount of literal dirt on it. When drinks, specifically ginger ale, come in a can, you can be sure that no one else has touched it and that it’s germ-free. That’s not the case with all airplane beverages — according to Dr. Oz, you can never be totally sure of when aircrafts clean their coffee machines, so it’s best to stick with a drink that you can be sure is free of bacteria or germs. So even if you’re exhausted, you might want to pick another caffeinated beverage for your flight over coffee.

Flying can be tough, but choosing a free drink on the plane should be stress-free. Try choosing ginger ale on your next flight and see if you notice any differences. It can be a great distraction from all that’s going on around you, especially if flying makes you nervous. 

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Article written by Madeline Merinuk