Do You Applaud When Your Flight Lands?

Do You Applaud When Your Flight Lands?
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Sometimes, it’s not exactly clear if you’re being a jerk, so the Lifehacker team spent the last week tackling this exact topic through “Jerk Week”. Here’s one example I’d like to share with readers that straddles the “jerk” line: On a recent flight, I was seated next to a woman who seemed perfectly normal and polite. After a brief disagreement on political events — I’ll spare you the details, but it somehow came up — we continued to sit amicably alongside one another, despite our differences.

Upon landing, she suddenly broke out into applause and was joined by at least a handful of other passengers. It was nearly 1am when we landed, and naturally, I was startled. Upon seeing my reaction and refusal to clap, she turned to me — and without hesitation — called me a “snob”.

Look, it’s great that we were alive but the pilots will not hear my applause, nor will they care. But am I just being an arsehole? Generally, I don’t care if others clap, I just don’t want to nor should I be made to feel bad about it. But maybe this was just a miscommunication; perhaps she believed I was judging her for applauding, in which case, “snob” might be totally fitting.

The Washington Post recently took a deep-dive into the origins of why some people clap after landing. There are reasons to believe it might just be a coping mechanism for infrequent fliers and particularly after long or turbulent flights.

According to our managing editor, Virginia, it may also simply be a matter of cultural differences. (A Travel and Leisure story from 2016 suggests this premise, too.)

So to our readers, we ask: Do you clap when your plane has made it to its destination? (If so, please tell us why.) And do you care if other passengers clap?


  • I’m a clapper for two reasons:
    1. I once had a pilot explain to me that take-offs and landings are basically controlled crashes. With that in mind, a pilot deserves more than just my praise for landing us safely. And if that’s not good enough for an applause, I’d like to see you fly the planes instead.
    2. I’m terrified of flying. A combination of anxiety, fear of heights and claustrophobia make flying particularly heinous for me. Going through a take-off and landing is so acutely stressful for me, so after landing I have a lot of leftover nervous energy and clapping is an immediate way for me to let some of it out and get my breathing back to normal.
    From what you’ve written, yeah, she ‘Snob’-bed you for the likely highly judgemental face you pulled in her direction.

  • If you’ve had an on board emergency or something it might be appropriate but if the journey was normal then applause is weird! You’re more likely to crash and die on the way to the airport, you don’t applaud your bus or taxi driver!

    • From experience, it’s a cultural thing. Flying back to my parents’ mother country (European background which involves 24 hours flying), the passengers clap their hands in relief that they made it safely, while others do the sign of the cross before take off and landing.
      Having said that, it’s mostly the baby boomers generation that I’ve noticed do this.

  • No! NO! NOO! I mean if the pilots suddenly heard 200 odd people clapping and cherring as the plane touched down it would frighten the **** outta them!

    They did their job, which is great, when you get off say `Thanks for a great flight’!

    But yes, seems a more cultural thing really!

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