Everybody Clap Your Hands

by Nancy Bestor

I’m dating myself here, but I remember the days when upon touching down in Europe airplane passengers would offer a short, golf-clap-like round of applause. These days, every once in a while, when I’m on a flight to or from Europe a few passengers might clap when the plane lands. Where did this tradition go? Why did anyone clap in the first place? And why is it wrong to call flight attendants stewardesses (whoops, that’s a topic for another story).

I went to my handy Encyclopedia Brittanica (just kidding, but I did grow up with a set of these in my house…dating myself yet again). In reality I went to the internet to do a little surfing research and here’s what I found. Some say it’s a British thing. Others say clapping was a “thank you” to the pilots for a smooth landing, or a landing after some particularly nasty weather conditions. Yet another person asks why we didn’t clap when a bus pulled into the station. (Good point!) Still others say clapping after a safe landing is annoying. And one person experiments with clapping on a plane and feeling shameful. I can’t find the origins of clapping after a plane lands, nor can I really find out the origins of why people clap after anything. All I can say is it makes me feel good when passengers break out into applause when a plane lands. Maybe we’re all just happy to be at our destination?

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