Resident pilot 121pilot, a captain for a major U.S. airline, authors a new column on Live and Let’s Fly called Ask Your Captain. His mission: demystify the flight deck and an answer any question you may have on the topic of flying.
Q: Is it policy or personal preference on cockpit announcements to the cabin? I got over a fear of flying, and while I love to fly now, I am still the extremely anxious type, and want to know what’s going on (expected flight time, cruise altitude, potential turbulence/change to flight plan based on weather conditions, etc…). Some pilots have been great at giving this info, some just say “welcome aboard” and that’s it.
I check all kinds of info to see this ahead of time and loved Channel 9 on United, as I felt “in the loop” on something that was completely out of my control.
A: Announcements from the cockpit are mostly personal preference. The FA’s have a script they are required to work off and while there are certain announcements that I’m supposed to make (like a welcome aboard and another announcement when we begin our final decent), but the content of those is by and large up to me.
My usual welcome aboard includes the weather at destination and expected flying time, but as a general rule I don’t talk about turbulence. That’s because I hate to predict a smooth ride and have it not be so and if I’m expecting turbulence my thought is that for the nervous flyers, telling them in advance is only going to make things worse.
That being said, when the situation demands it (like, for example, we are expecting very bad turbulence on departure) I will be upfront about what to expect so that everyone knows that yes, they really do want their seat belts cinched tight.
I’m also a big believer that when there are delays or mechanical issues, the average passenger is going to be far happier if I simply tell them the truth and regularly update them. When the issue is mechanical, I do try and provide a high-level overview of the issue without getting into the weeds where the explanation is so technical as to be meaningless.
Have a question for the captain? E-mail him at ask121pilot at yahoo dot com and you may see your question appear in a future column!