April 1, 2018.   “Cleared to Land,” “Floor Area,” and Other Public Address Nonsense.

The bombardment of public address announcements on planes is one of air travel’s most vexing discomforts, but it can sometimes be funny. Funny through the sheer madness of it. The ways in which airline workers can bend, twist, and otherwise convolute the English language is nothing if not astonishing. For reasons unknown, it is impossible for a crew member to simply say, for instance: “I am driving my car to work.” Instead, he or she must say, “At this time, I am operating my vehicle to my location of employment.” This stylistic overkill is designed, I think, to get your attention, and to make a particular statement sound extra-important. All it actually does, though, is burden your synapses by forcing them to deal with far more words than they need to. The phrasing is often so strained and heavy-handed that you can almost hear the sentences crying out in pain. Flying is tedious and stressful enough. Just get on with it already.

Some of the most humorous examples are found in my Air Travel Glossary but I keep discovering and adding new ones. The latest addition is “floor area.” You’ll hear this from the flight attendants as part of the after-landing spiel. “Please check the floor area for your personal belongings before deplaning.” Also known as the floor. Who talks like this? When you’re at home, do you say, “I need to vacuum the floor area”? Or, “Look at that, Brendan, you’ve spilled cereal all over the floor area!”

Pilots also make peculiar use of “area” during their before-landing announcement. “Folks, we’ve begun our descent into the Chicago area….” Well, yeah, I guess, but we’re not landing in “the Chicago area,” we’re landing in Chicago. What’s wrong with, “We’ve begun our descent into Chicago.” Or better still, “We’ve begun our descent.” I’m pretty sure everyone on the plane knows where it’s going.

And so on.

In the meantime, can the cabin crew please — please — knock it off with the “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been cleared to land…” announcement that is made during descent. I don’t know when or how this habit got started, but it’s become routine. Some airlines actually train their flight attendants to say it. The problem is, it’s not true. Actual landing clearance normally occurs within one or two minutes of touchdown — often less — and this information is not relayed to the flight attendants. They have no idea when the plane is cleared to land. The second set of chimes that you hear during descent has nothing to do with landing clearance. It’s a generic signal that means little more than, “We’ll be landing shortly.”

This is maybe something only a pilot (who is also a pedantic crank) might get upset about. Because, really, who cares and what difference does it make? But I can’t help myself.


Back to the Ask the Pilot Home Page Visit the Blog Archive Back to Top!