Why Do People Clap When Planes Land?

Have you ever been on a flight where passengers burst into applause upon landing?

Among flight attendants and seasoned travellers, the consensus seems to be that flights to vacation destinations are most likely to end with praise. “When you’re going to Vegas, most people are going to party,” says flight attendant Kara Mulder. “Eighty percent of the time, [passengers] are gonna clap.” Travel writer Marisa Robertson-Textor adds, “People clap when there’s a population where for whatever reason, economic or political, it’s diaspora, with people returning to their homeland.”


It seems like every country’s airline passengers think they are the only ones, but all the available evidence is that clapping when a plane lands is an entirely international phenomenon.

For frequent fliers, a round of applause on touching down seems about as necessary as praising the driver of your train, bus or taxi. But for those less accustomed to airline travel, giving the pilot an ovation seems as natural as tipping a waiter.

An unscientific analysis of Twitter and Facebook posts by Lonely Planet shows tweets and updates from countries right across the world, with users mostly lamenting the naïve habits of their gauche fellow passengers.

The most remarkable thing, however, is that most countries seem to think it’s only their fellow countrymen who indulge, yet social media posts from landings in the UK, Ireland, the United States, Australia, the Philippines, Russia and Puerto Rico can all be easily found.

Some factors likely to contribute to a sustained round of applause are a particularly turbulent flight or a landing in severe weather conditions.

Similarly, package holidays and their combination of infrequent air travel mixed in with a few alcoholic beverages can also be a factor in clapping.

Rounds of applause are now almost unheard of aboard the thousands of short scheduled flights that people now treat as routine.

Some flights, however, are thought to be particularly prone to bouts of clapping, include some long haul routes into Manila Airport in the Philippines where aircraft can often be full with ex-pat workers returning to their home country after long periods.

Similarly, Shannon Airport in the West of Ireland had a well-earned reputation for clapping as many emigrants returned home from the major East Coast cities of the United States.

Of course, the real problem with the clapping is the fact that the pilot cannot hear what is happening and will not know unless told by cabin staff.

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