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Applause--Not Needed but Appreciated

rstark
Not applicable
If you fly on Southwest Airlines regularly, chances are you’ve probably been on a flight where the cabin breaks into applause upon landing. This happens from time-to-time for various reasons. Often, it’s in response to a “sporty” approach in gusty winds or bad weather that has the Passengers who are not “comfortable fliers” clutching their armrests until touchdown.
 
Often, the raucous applause breaks out at the suggestion of the Flight Attendants via the P.A. system. You probably hear more of those comments on SWA because we are free to make flying more fun for our Passengers. Off-the-wall comments by our Flight Attendants are encouraged. (“Ladies and Gentleman, if you are not doing so at this time, please do so immediately. Thank you.”) My favorite PA comments are following a firm landing. (“Take THAT Mr. Runway!” or “Folks, that wasn’t the Captain’s fault. That wasn’t the First Officer’s fault. That was the asphalt.”)
 
Flight Attendant interaction with the Passengers is critical at times.
 
Once, in descent to Austin's old Robert Mueller Airport, we heard a call by another carrier reporting severe turbulence on climbout. There was a huge mass of weather to the north of Austin, but it was clear to the south along our arrival path. FAA regulations prohibit Pilots from flying into areas of known or reported severe turbulence so we had little time to determine whether we were legal to continue the arrival.
 
Once we were assured by ATC (Air Traffic Control) that the reporting aircraft was “in the weather” about 15 miles northwest of the field, we continued our approach and landing. Though our approach corridor had only been reported as “occasional moderate” turbulence, we encountered increasingly more “enthusiastic” bumps and deviations from our glidepath. Several times on the approach, the bottom would seemingly drop out of the plane as we entered strong sinking wind currents. On these occasions, we could hear the passengers' voices as the plane rode through the roller coaster ride on approach.
 
During all of this, the Flight Attendant seated in the rear of the plane was making hilarious (at the time) comments to the passengers. “I know these Pilots folks! We are going to be fine!” And another: “Hold on to your seatbelt with one hand, and hold the other hand over your head and yell YEE-HAWWW!” The passengers were still loud, but their surprise was immediately followed by laughter and clapping, even louder than the initial screams of surprise.
 
Up front, we had our hands full. My partner and I had decided to continue the approach as long as it was safe. We had an alternate route to Houston in clear air to the south. Realizing we were going to be able to land, I voiced my intention to the First Officer to make the landing an unequivocal and unmistakable “end to this carnival ride.”
 
The last couple hundred feet of the descent was just continuous bouncing and shuddering of the jet. I managed to get a decent landing out of the approach and came on with firm braking and full reverse. My message to the passengers: This ride is OVER. From the back was a thunderous applause followed by yelling and whistling for about 15 seconds.
 
As a Pilot, my primary job is to get the aircraft safely on the runway, in the landing zone and get it stopped well before the end of the runway. Smooth “greaser” landings are nice but not preferable to landing “in the zone.” After a sporty approach, it’s fun to hear the Passengers vote with their hands. It goes a little way toward making up for the inadvertent “pounder” landings all Pilots experience now and then.
 
In the case of the Austin approach, the cabin was jovial and laughter was contagious during deplaning, all thanks to the work by the compassionate and quick-thinking  Flight Attendant. --A woman I had never met before in my life.
 
In my mind on approach and after landing, I was applauding her.
5 Comments
drew
Not applicable
This post immediately reminded me of a Spirit article from earlier this year: http://www.spiritmag.com/2008_04/clickthis/04clapping.php
joedal
Not applicable
I always clap upon landing, because I too know of how difficult it is to land an aircraft, I'm a private pilot. But, it is something that I think is deserved. Southwest is the best about making a rough situation more enjoyable and easier to take for the uneasy passengers. Love this post keep them coming!

Joseph M.

Dallas, Texas

Artie
Not applicable
I never realized you guys could hear the PA announcements or noise from the cabin up in the flight deck. Wow - that is pretty cool. I always just figured passenger applause was just shared by the FA to the pilot - I didn't know you actually heard it. Very cool!
Sheila_Troupe
Not applicable
I applaud you for your no fees flying, especially in light of the current trends. I truly appreciate that the "peanuts" airline serves snacks and drinks enough to curb my appetite until the next stop. I am grateful that I can call 1 800 I FLYSWA and speak with an agent who is encouraged to take the time to help me if I'm stuck on the internet. I admire your very efficient, internet webpage and it was the first site I trusted to use as a customer many years ago. And I definitely LUV that I can change my mind or correct an error without the almost standard, industry-wide penalty. I once made four reservations at a treasured price for a trip that took place while I was tied up in court proceedings without control of my time. And I thank you for the Rapid Rewards program that makes a possibly inconvenient stop, worth it. As a former flight attendant for a now, non-existent, airline, Southwest Airlines proves that my imagination for a successful business plan was not only possible, but a model that continues to thrive through many financial cycles.
William_Diaz
Not applicable
I am 32 years old and have flown on almost every major airline around since the early 1980s as a toddler/child. From PSA (one of my favorites), Alaska, American, United (in the 80s another favorite), Northwest, jetBlue, Virgin America, USAir, I think I might miss a few here and there, Southwest hands down has the best flight attendants in terms of keeping passengers safe and comfortable, and bringing light to a bad situation. Through all this, they remain professional (even while telling their jokes). Professionalism doesnt mean always having to be tight collared and have a plain look on your face, it means understanding a situation, the customers needs, and sometimes breaking into song and dance or yelling YEE HAWW while the plane is hitting air pockets is exactly what some customers are looking for - thats what keeps Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants professional, they give the passengers a sense of relief in a bad time. Pilots are the biggest asset however to my safety. Their job is to get the plane off the ground, fly safely and get the plane and people on the ground in one piece, without any incidents aboard. Without them, I guess Id be taking a bus or a train right? Like pilots, and flight attendants, I know my duty on the plane as a passenger is to observe and ensure the safety of those around me. We all look out for each other, and it seems Southwest customers are the most diligent and dont let anything go unnoticed. If someone acts up, we quell it. If someone starts screaming, we quiet them. And if, god forbid, anything happens aboard, we all become cabin crew and risk our lives for the sake of others. Southwest as a brand, an airline, and a culture has taught us how to be the REAL passengers in the sky, and how to be the REAL support for those 6,000 pilots and tens of thousands of flight attendants that otherwise may not get shown appreciation, get that laughter in the cabin, or the clap at the end of the flight. Pilots and Flight Attendants may never have met, or know each others names, but to us passengers, you are our family in the sky and names mean nothing to us when its all about the smiles and claps we give back!