If you’re a frequent flyer, you have inevitably been in a situation where people on the plane clapped after it landed.
Some people think it’s a just a bit of fun or a way to show appreciation, while others think it’s cringeworthy and wouldn’t be caught dead doing it.
Wherever you stand, there are several reasons why people clap when the plane lands.
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4 Reasons Why People Clap When the Plane Lands
Some passengers are just so excited that they have reached their destination and their vacation can now begin that they just can’t contain themselves and will start clapping.
2. A Safe Landing
Even though flying is by far the safest way to travel, there’s just something about being 35,000 feet in the air and making it safely to the ground that is almost unexpected.
We see and hear of plane crashes in the news that live long in the memory as we imagine the terror that passengers must have gone through, so even though your odds of being in a fatal plane crash are one in 11 million, passengers are still relieved when they land.
3. Different Cultures
In some countries, it is more socially acceptable to clap when the plane lands.
This is particularly true in Latin America, Poland, Russia, Portugal, and Russia.
Clapping on a plane can also vary by airline.
You will never likely hear more applause than onboard the Israeli Airline El Al, where clapping is actively encouraged as it is “part of the spirit of the airline” as one spokesperson put it.
It’s hard to imagine the same happening on a Southwest or American Airlines flight, though there can be exceptions.
Applause is more often heard when landing in Las Vegas, Hawaii, or New Orleans compared to other locations in the U.S.
Even though commercial air travel is remarkably safe, this doesn’t mean that things can’t and won’t go wrong.
If the flight appeared to be particularly perilous, yet the pilots managed to land safely, that is no doubt worthy of applause.
Do Pilots & Cabin Crew Appreciate it When You Clap?
You might think that all pilots and cabin crew would appreciate it when they hear applause from passengers once the plane has landed.
But this isn’t always the case.
The pilot and cabin crew are just doing their job – and flying from point A to point B without running into any problems is expected.
If you were applauded every time you leave work for just doing your job, you would probably find it annoying and perhaps even patronizing.
It’s the same for pilots and cabin crew, who are just doing their job.
Of course, there are always exceptions and pilots and cabin crew may enjoy the applause.
Additionally, pilots wear aviation headsets that block out noise to protect their hearing, so they might not even hear the applause in the first place.
Should You Clap When the Plane Lands?
Clapping when the plane lands remains divisive.
We’ve covered why people may clap when a plane lands and how it is more common in some countries than others.
Perhaps one of these reasons resonates with you.
In our opinion, it would be best to “read the room” and join in when other passengers start clapping, as there is nothing worse than being the only person who claps and getting funny looks from your fellow passengers.
Additionally, as the vast majority of flights operate as expected and the plane lands safely at its destination, there probably isn’t a good reason to clap – that is, unless the flight looked perilous at one stage, such as experiencing dangerous turbulence.
Clapping Once the Plane Landed Used to Be More Common
Clapping once the plane landed did in fact used to be a more common occurrence, especially in the 1980s.
Today, air travel is far more common and, at least in the U.S., it’s quite rare to meet someone who has never flown on a plane.
In other words, flying is much more common and is not the extraordinary experience it once was, so the novelty has worn off.
Additionally, commercial air travel has never been safer, so people expect to arrive at their destination without any hiccups, so clapping is no longer warranted.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).