You’re off to your honeymoon. As the plane lands, your spouse begins to clap. You give them that look and think, ‘why do people clap when the plane lands?’
Landing claps have been around for a while, but no one knows why. Something is thrilling about touching the solid ground coming from the air. Many people clap to appreciate a safe landing, while some are excited to arrive at their favorite destination. Yet, some others clap just for the fun of it.
Interestingly, clapping upon landing has become a global phenomenon. No matter what part of the world you are flying to, you are bound to encounter some clappers. But there can be exceptions depending on the routes and time of the flight.
An experienced flight attendant and an avid blogger, Kara Mulder speculates that plane clapping has a lot to do with frequent flyers on the flight. If you fly often, chances are you will not clap when you land because it is an everyday thing.
Why Do People Clap on Landing?
There are several reasons; some are cultural while others are psychological. Let us look at a few of them.
The Survival Instinct
Humans are not built to fly. But today, we have more humans flying higher and faster than any bird could even imagine. Deep inside, we have a little fear of going out of our ordinary nature. For new flyers, this fear is obvious. Seasoned flyers, however, learn to accept flying as their nature and know how to overcome aerophobia.
Landing is a moment perceived as survival, even for seasoned travelers. The feeling of wheels bouncing underneath can be very dramatic. Most people do not even realize that they are holding their breaths and have tensed their muscles amid the approach.
After the landing announcement, we feel that we are safe. There is no better way to celebrate our freedom from anxiety and fear than clapping.
End of the Show
Flying is still a special experience for many of us, and landing is like bringing down the curtain. For certain people, it is but natural to clap at the end of a performance. Another thing that could make flying feel like a show is the nice and polite voice of the captain and cabin crew, which can make us feel like an audience.
It is Cultural
If you have visited multiple countries on the globe, you will know that passengers from certain countries clap more than others. Take Romania and Russia, for example. They are both known for thunderous applause after the plane lands.
El Al airlines of Israel also has a culture of applause whenever it arrives back home. People express the love and joy of coming back safely to their hometown.
Clapping Has History
Clapping is a curious ritual. We have been striking our hands together for thousands of years. The gesture is universally understood and practiced. Any performance that ends without applause seems awkward. You will find people clapping at sporting events and even as a movie ends in a theater. We all universally agree that a little clapping never hurt anyone.
But some claps can be negative, giving a waiter a slow clapping just as they have dropped a plate on the ground. This clapping is often considered sarcastic, and it is best to steer clear of these. Then there is some controversial clapping, and on top of this list are landing claps.
Although seasoned travelers and flight crews now perceive it as a joke, landing claps have been around for decades. It is believed that we have been clapping for landings since 1948.
On November 20, 1948, an American Airlines aircraft had trouble with the landing gear instrument panel. The plane was carrying forty people on board and was circling Cincinnati airport as the pilots were trying to resolve the issue of deploying the landing gear.
When the pilots received confirmation over the radio that the searchlights were able to see the landing gear correctly deployed, the plane landed without issues. As the plane approached taxiing speed, all the passengers clapped in a thankful relief.
Clapping Varies by Route
Most clapping is done on flights to vacation destinations. Landing in Orlando, Hawaii, or Las Vegas often stimulates huge applause. It could be because the people are excited to be one step closer to their vacations.
Flights to remote destinations with less-experienced flyers also have many clappers. They love to appreciate the experience they had during the whole flight.
You can never be sure if a flight will have clappers. A veteran flight attendant believes domestic routes usually have more clappers, but another thinks international flights elicit more applause.
Clapping is Controversial
Many anti-clappers have an issue with applauding the pilot for simply doing their job. You don’t clap for the subway driver when they stop at a station, or for a doctor when they write a prescription, or for a valet when they bring your car out for you.
Flight crew often find it weird when the passengers clap. But they are used to it and understand that it is ok to be excited when arriving at your favorite destination. On the other hand, the cockpit door is soundproof. The pilots cannot hear the applause upon landing, and the flight attendants have better things to do than to inform pilots of ovations.
But quite frankly, nobody cares if the flight crew approves or even if pilots cannot hear them. Passengers clap habitually and out of joy for any event that they approve of. For infrequent and nervous flyers, a round of applause works like therapy. They can express their relief and gratitude for arriving safely and vent off negative energy using the clapping motion.
Should I Clap When the Plane Lands?
Well, yes and no. It depends largely on the airline you are flying with, and the destination you are flying to. On some high-traffic routes, you might look weird clapping alone. While on others, you will be more comfortable going with the flow and joining your fellow passengers in a round of applause.
Some airlines promote clapping. El Al, for example, encourages its passengers to clap when they land in their hometown.
JetBlue produced an ad that showed people clapping when landing at their new destination.
On Ryanair, a fanfare used to play upon landing. It was followed by an announcement celebrating another on-time arrival, triggering the instincts of clappers. Sadly, the anti-clappers won this one. After a vote conducted by the airline, the airline toned down the catchy fanfare, and the on-time celebration announcement was taken off in 2014.
Why Clapping On Landing Is Becoming Rare Now
Clapping was a regular occurrence on planes in the 80s and 90s. But now, it is becoming fairly rare. There are two reasons for that. First off, more people are getting used to flying and do not find it an extraordinary experience anymore. People are beginning to feel a lot safer in the air. They now believe that the pilots are just doing their regular job when they try to bring down a 300-ton beast onto a strip 200 feet wide with precision.
You don’t have to clap on every flight. But sometimes, it just feels good to celebrate the fact that you are one step closer to meeting your family, starting your vacation, or even walking into your home sweet home and collapsing on the bed.
With the pilots not hearing you appreciate them and the crew finding it cringeworthy, you might be tempted not to waste your energy. But you have to focus on yourself first. If the clapping helps you vent off anxiety and fear or just brings some happiness and fun, why not go along with it. After all, a little applause never hurt anyone.
About THE AUTHOR
Alex has logged close to 400 hours on his own Piper Cherokee and enjoys bush flying as it offers a chance to test out his skills in difficult situations. His favorite trip, and one he makes regularly, is to the Red Deer Forestry Airstrip.Read more about Alex Costa