March 31, 2011— -- Q: Why do people applaud when planes land? Isn't the pilot just doing his job? I don't expect a round of applause for hitting my quarterly sales goals. And I don't suppose he can hear it through the cabin door, anyway.
A: Okay, maybe the applause is a little silly, but what's the harm? I think some people do it because they're nervous fliers and are grateful the plane landed safely… some people applaud for particularly smooth landings… and a whole lot of people clap because everyone else is doing it and it's a break from the monotony of sitting still.
I don't have a problem with it—I can think of plenty of worse things people could do on a plane than clap when it lands. And yes, it is the pilot's job, but come on—that's a pretty darn difficult job. (If anyone deserves a round of applause, it's the pilots who landed sans air-traffic control support.) If you don't want to clap, don't clap.
Q: I recently flew from Paris to JFK and was seated next to an unaccompanied minor. She was 10 and apparently makes this trip twice a year to see her father, who lives in France. Well, she brought absolutely nothing to keep herself occupied on the flight. No magazines, no cell phone with games, no iPod—nothing. So she spent the whole flight talking to me. What was I watching on the video screen, could I help her turn the volume up on hers, could she read my magazine when I was done with it—it was awful. What could I have done? I felt bad she was traveling by herself, but I felt like I was babysitting.
A: Oh, what rotten luck. You'd think that if she makes this trip twice a year, she'd have known to bring something to do! And I know that if I were the parent of a kid flying unaccompanied, I'd make darn sure that they had a carry-on bag well stocked with books and toys and snacks.
But the same advice I always give about chatty seatmates holds true here: when you've had enough chit-chat, say something like, "Wow, it's late. Think it's time for me to get some rest," or "I've got to get some work done now, but it's been great talking to you." Then you put on a pair of headphones, and depending on what you've said, feign sleep or work on something.