Turkish Airlines
Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

4 Reasons Why Passengers Clap After The Airplane Lands Safely

Appreciative and celebratory — or annoying?

Airplanes are quite amazing: the people who pilot them get their passengers to their destinations safely and quickly. They are usually equipped with modern conveniences to keep the passengers aboard reasonably comfortable and occupied — and even fed and hydrated.

4 Reasons Why Passengers Clap After The Airplane Lands Safely

The year 2017 was historic in that no commercial airplanes crashed that year; and the safety record of most airplanes and airlines has been impeccable in recent years due to strict requirements and duplicity of equipment: for example, if one engine fails, the other is capable of having the airplane land safely. If one pilot becomes ill, the other pilot is trained and experienced enough to take over operations of the flight…

…so why do passengers clap after an airplane lands — especially when the record of commercial aviation is safer than most other modes of transportation worldwide?

1. Passengers Are Happy They Survived

If you are reading this article here at The Gate, you have likely been a passenger aboard an airplane or are even a person who flies aboard airplanes frequently and thus the miracle of flying from one place to another may seem ordinary and uneventful to you — but flying is still a strange phenomenon to passengers who have never experienced a flight which is operated by a commercial airline. Some passengers may have aerophobia, which is a fear of flying; and traveling by airplane may be the only way they can visit a destination in person about which they have only dreamed. Perhaps they may need to visit an ailing friend or relative who lives across an ocean that cannot be accessed by automobile or train.

When those wheels touch the ground upon landing, that may be perceived as a moment of survival. Some pilots are able to “grease” the landing — meaning that the feeling of the airplane touching the ground while still moving forward at a relatively high rate of speed is minimal…

…but when the landing is rough — sometimes to the point where the entire aircraft momentarily bounces — that can feel dramatic to the nascent traveler, who may be holding his or her breath while the entire body is tensed. After the airplane lands and slows down, the body relaxes and breathing becomes normal again. They survived! Time to applaud and celebrate the safe landing of the airplane — whether this action is intentional or subconscious.

For nervous passengers who fly infrequently, a round of applause can be therapeutic, as they can express their relief and gratitude for arriving safely while simultaneously venting off negative energy by using the clapping motion.

2. A Way To Express Gratitude To Members of The Flight Crew

For many passengers worldwide, flying as a passenger aboard an airplane is still a special experience — and the safe and precise landing of a machine that can weigh as much as 435 tons onto a strip of pavement which is 200 feet wide with precision is like the conclusion of a performance and the curtain is drawn or comes down. Clapping at the end of a performance is natural to some people, who may want to express their gratitude and appreciation to the members of the flight crew on what they perceive as a successful performance — especially when the public announcements which are conducted aboard the airplane throughout the entire flight are in a tone which is nice and polite.

One problem is that the cockpit door is soundproof; so the pilots cannot hear the applause upon landing — and the flight attendants are too busy preparing for the landing of the airplane than to inform pilots of applause or ovations.

3. Excited To Arrive At The Destination, Which Varies By Flight Route

Let’s face it: you will likely not hear passengers applaud the conclusion of a flight between Detroit and Kansas City — but a destination to which many people travel on vacation might evoke excitement that may lead to applause because they are ever so close to starting their holidays.

Exotic destinations and remote destinations may also trigger passengers to clap upon the landing of an airplane because those passengers may actually not believe that they are at a place which has either been featured or highlighted in many books and films — or perhaps the passengers have little to no experience in flying aboard an airplane and simply appreciate what they may consider to be an event.

Some passengers clap habitually and out of joy for any event of which they approve — including the successful landing of an airplane.

4. Differences in Culture

You may have noticed that while most domestic flights in the United States do not conclude with passengers clapping after the airplane lands, some flight routes which transport passengers to or from certain countries will more likely end with applause from grateful passengers due to the cultures in which they were born and raised.

History — and Controversy — Of Clapping Upon Landing

No one knows exactly how or when applause started; but it is generally approval or praise expressed by clapping one’s hands — and it has been done for thousands of years.

Similarly, applause by passengers after the landing of an airplane has existed for decades — especially when commercial aviation was not as safe as it is today. That safety record may be a reason why frequent fliers, seasoned travelers, and members of flight crews now perceive clapping upon landing as a joke.

People who oppose clapping after an airplane successfully lands may have an issue with applauding the pilots for simply doing their job, as few other professions have people garner applause from their customers after performing what is expected of them during the course of their employment every day — similar to the controversial practice of leaving a gratuity for someone.

Final Boarding Call

I remember when clapping after an airplane successfully landed was more of a regular occurrence when I first started flying as a passenger aboard airplanes — ever since my first time as a passenger aboard an airplane, I have not once clapped my hands after a safe landing — but as more people are getting used to flying, feel significantly safer in the air, and do not find the experience extraordinary anymore, applause is rare these days.

In recent years, the only time I have heard applause aboard an airplane are on flights which are operated by carriers which are based in or near the Middle East — and the passengers aboard the airplane are from vastly different cultures.

Although it is harmless, I inexplicably find applause upon safely landing mildly annoying. I have thought to myself, so if we did not land safely, does that mean no clapping? Are you going to boo and hiss instead?

I suppose that each passenger should be himself or herself. If clapping after an airplane lands safely is something a passenger wants to do for whatever reason, go for it — as long as it is not unnecessarily extended for a long period of time and accompanied by loud whooping and cheers…

Photograph ©2022 by Brian Cohen.

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