This is the reason passengers clap when a plane lands

No in-flight habit is as irritating as the applause on landing – but is it finally dying out?

Clapping after landing is a habit that is slowly dying out — Shutterstock clap reason landing
Clapping after landing is a habit that is, hopefully,  slowly dying out — Shutterstock

If you take international flights once in a while you must have encountered the custom that millions of travellers utterly despise – applauding a landing.

There are numerous reasons why people feel the urge to clap after the plane touches the ground. Some of them are psychological, some cultural, and they all point towards the idea that this irritating habit may disappear once and for all.

Apparently, some people simply cannot help themselves once the aircraft bounces safely onto the ground. According to Judi James, an expert on body language, it is nothing but a sheer survival instinct kicking in.

“Subliminally, it’s a moment of shared survival because even for seasoned travellers – the moment of landing is most dangerous,” she told Sun Online Travel.

“It’s very dramatic as often you feel the wheels bounce underneath – so it’s nothing like pulling into a station for instance.

“Most people don’t realise they will be tense and holding breath.

“But then we’re embarrassed by our own fear and it puts us back in control if we make a lot of noise together – it doesn’t make us look like the cowards we are feeling like.”

The moment of landing is the most dangerous and the success strikes a  feeling of shared survival — Shutterstock clap reason landing
A successful landing causes a feeling of shared survival — Shutterstock

Another reason why applauding might appear natural is that the landing sometimes feels like an end of a show.

“There is a certain theatricality about flying – we feel like we have been an audience with the captain’s voice coming over the speakers,” James said.

But with adequate education in flying-etiquette and rising number of flights a passenger boards, the tendency decreases rapidly.

“If you’re flying every other week you’re not going to clap when you land,” flight attendant Kara Mulder told Travel and Leisure.

There are also ways how to overcome the psychological and cultural background. Sometimes, it is just about not following the crowd.

A sociology professor Clark McPhail told Mic: “We may suppress our own clapping when we do not share surrounding others evaluating or appreciation of whatever it is they are applauding; more often than not, we join in.”

According to James, there are two other reasons why clapping is slowly dying out. She said: “We have a lower expectation of having an accident in the plane these days – there was a time in the 1980s in 1990s when you’d hear something on the news regularly, but now you hear nothing.

“The fear of flying has changed slightly these days– it’s less about take-off and landing and more about terrorism.”