Have you ever been on a flight where the passengers erupted into applause as soon as the plane touched down on the runway? If you have, you might have wondered why people insist on clapping on the plane. Is it a tradition? A way to show appreciation to the pilot? Or is it just a weird quirk of human behavior? And when did this become such a divisive issue? Why do some people loathe the practice? And where do you come down on the issue? Fear not, friends. CheapAir.com is here to answer these burning questions for you.

Do people everywhere clap on airplanes?

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: clapping when a plane lands is not a universal phenomenon. In fact, some people say it’s mostly an American thing (more later on the other countries where it happens more often). We Americans are a strange bunch. We clap at everything – movies, concerts, even when the waiter brings us our food. But why do we feel the need to clap when a plane lands? Is it because we’re just so darn happy to be back on solid ground? Or is there something more to it?

Theory #1: We’re so excited and we just can’t hide it

It’s simply a show of anticipation and excitement. We like this theory a lot. It goes a little something like this. When you’re flying to Hawaii or Cabo or (especially) Las Vegas, when you land people are so jazzed and hopped up on anticipation for the fun they’re about to have, they can’t help but break out into enthusiastic applause.

Theory #2: The End of the Show

People like theater, and flying is still a special enough phenomenon for us (come on – we’re hurtling through space!) – that it’s something of a “roll credits” experience. The show is over! Show some appreciation for the spectacle we all just witnessed. The miracle of flight! Ta dah!

Theory #3: We’re so relieved we made it in one piece!

One theory is that clapping is a way to show appreciation to the pilot and the crew for getting us safely to our destination. After all, flying can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially for those who are afraid of heights, have a fear of flying or are new to the air travel experience. So, when the plane lands without incident, it’s natural to feel relieved and grateful. Hence, a round of relieved applause.

Theory #4: Clapping on the plane is a cultural thing

This theory is debatable, but there does seem to be something to it. In places like Russia and Romania (for instance), the whole airplane generally will break into peals of massive applause. The Israeli airline El Al, also has a tradition on its flights to Israel to encourage clapping on landing. It’s a sort of homecoming. Sweet sentiment, no? Well, some people do say no! Why is clapping on landing so controversial? Here’s a quick roundup of the naysayer objections.

Objection #1: It’s the pilot’s job

Some killjoys find clapping to be superfluous. After all, why should you applaud the pilot for simply doing his or her job – aka getting us and the airplane to our destination in one piece! Why should they get a cookie for doing something that is simply part of their job description? After all, do you give the uber driver a round of applause when he or she gets you to your front door? Hmph!

Objection #2: The pilot can’t hear you

It’s performative and the pilot can’t hear you anyway! Whether you love to clap or not, know that the pilots likely can’t hear you. This is due to the soundproof-nature of the cockpit. So if you’re clapping, at least be doing it for yourself and those around you.

Objection #3: Clappers aren’t cool

Other folks are downright snobbish about it. If you subscribe to the theory that a safe landing is cause for relieved clapping, you might also be someone who doesn’t fly so much. So some more seasoned travelers find clapping to be something uncouth rubes do. Otherwise, you’d sleep through turbulence and “pish posh” the safe return to terra firma. According to this theory, it’s sort of a cringy habit that unsophisticated folks do.

Objection #4: Why are you surprised to have landed?

And finally, to some it’s actually kind of alarming. You’re grateful for landing? Did you think you wouldn’t? You’re happy to just be ALIVE? That’s some dark stuff right there. Much better to not think too much about hurtling through space at 500+ miles an hour. Save your clapping on a plane.

What about you? Where do you fall on this debate? We’d love to hear in the comments section below.


  1. El Al is the only airline that I have ever flown on where we do clap when we land in Israel. Homecoming? You betcha!

  2. Clapping is a way of feeling happy for a safe landing, and knowing someone is arriving to the destination. It’s an excited experience.

  3. 🤗Its a way of saying thank you God for allowing us to make it safe. Don’t take anything for granted! Easily it could be your last flight!

  4. I can remember clapping happening only once. I thought it was very nice. It was a spontaneous thing following a very turbulent flight.

  5. It was a flight to Las Vegas in the 90’s, when I first experienced the passengers clapping on the plane after it landed. And then heard someone say, …”what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The passengers were loud, but happy. I just figured, they were all ready to party! I love clapping. It’s showing gratitude, and sharing a moment of joy and happiness with others. And clapping after the plane lands, for me is embracing the moment of traveling safely through air space—God’s Country and arriving safely on Earth—God’s Country too..

  6. I don’t clap, but it doesn’t bother me that others do. Maybe if it was a particularly rough flight due to weather or whatever. I find it rather amusing, actually. Whatever makes them happy, after all. 😉

  7. Just last month I flew to Dallas from Fort Myers Florida, and the turbulence was so bad. The plane would drop quickly when it hit an air pocket and it was quite a bumpy ride even coming in for landing. However, the pilot did an amazing job, controlling the plane and making a soft, smooth landing. Yes, they are received a round of applause. Well deserved. My connecting flight was only a half hour flight, but it took us almost 2 hours due to having to fly north above Oklahoma and fly around the storm to get to Tyler Texas. There was lightning and turbulence the entire time. Scary stuff. Especially since we were on a little puddle jumper. And yes, they also received a round of applause. On the way home we had a new pilot who was the first officer doing his first landing on his own back into Dallas and he did a great job. We all clapped for him and leaving the plane, we all thanked him and told him he did an awesome. He couldn’t have been any older than 25. He has a great career ahead of him.

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