Regular travelers will be able to recall plenty of instances when passengers erupted in applause when the plane landed — in particular after a bumpy or otherwise eventful flight, or one to a notable destination. But rather than appreciate the show of gratitude, it turns out pilots actually loathe the gesture.
A recent Quora thread suggests pilots dislike the applause, because only they know what's going on in the cockpit — and passengers absolutely don't.
Scott Kinder, a 737 pilot who has been active in the business for roughly 20 years, said you shouldn't even think about clapping when you land. "Passengers really have no idea what's going on up front with the landing, so how do they know what to clap for and what not to clap for? If a pilot floats a landing and lands half way down the runway, that's horrible and dangerous. But if it's smooth, he get claps from the front?"
Food for thought, especially since most of us have no idea what a safe landing really is anyway, from the perspective of someone tasked to pull it off with many lives at stake. Other professionals weighed in to echo Kinder's sentiments.
"Normally the applause is showing happiness they have arrived at their vacation spot — not [a show of gratitude] for pilots," shared pilot and airline consultant Brian Nicolich. "Normal flights shouldn't have an applause unless it was a frightening flight for one reason or another. Then the pilot might deserve applause."
Peter Wheeler, a commercial airline pilot, agreed: "As a professional pilot, it doesn’t really matter to me. The passengers cannot determine the technical quality of the landing and are not expert judges of technique. Sometimes a smooth landing is the exact wrong thing to do. Sometimes a smooth landing was achieved at the expense of other important things, like touching down on the correct part of the runway."
The takeaway? Hold the applause when you arrive at your destination safely, but deplane with a smile and a hearty "thank you" for the entire flight crew. You couldn't have done it without them.
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