Airplane Descent: What You Should Know about Landing

Basic of Air Travel: Descent

If all has gone according to plan, you should be getting closer and closer to your scheduled destination.  Of course, every once in awhile Mother Nature decides to take matters into her own hands, sending weather to make every traveler’s life miserable, but fortunately, this is the exception rather than the rule.

You may notice the gradual descent of the aircraft by the attitude of the plane, a need to clear or pop your ears, and/or an announcement by the crew that they have begun descent.

Descent triggers a busy set of activities for the Flight Attendants.  The descent will also change things for passengers.

Depending on how “far out” you are (distance away from the airport and time left before landing) and what the weather forecast is, a number of things will occur.  The closer it is to landing, the more hurried the activities will be.  Also, if there are reports of turbulence in the area, the descent preparation must be accomplished quickly so that the Flight Attendants can be seated before any turbulence.

Some things that will be happening during this time:

  • The food and beverage service, if any, will end.
  • Flight Attendants will be picking up trash in the cabin, and eventually, all service items will need to be picked up, even if you are not yet finished.
  • The seatbelt sign will be turned on, and everyone must be seated and buckled in.
  • The inflight entertainment system, if any, will be discontinued and put away.
  • Electronics will need to be turned off and stowed.
  • All carryon items will need to be stowed.
  • Carts must be broken down and stowed, galley(s) cleaned and everything locked up and secured.
  • The final paperwork must be completed.
  • Flight attendants will check to make sure that the cabin insecure.  This means that all bins are closed, everyone is seated and buckled in, tray tables up, seatbacks up, electronics turned off, and everything properly stowed.

There may be other steps that will be taken, depending on the airline that you are flying, but as you can see, there’s a lot to be accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

Passenger cooperation is very important, and the primary focus of the Flight Attendant’s duties have switched back from service to safety.  You can help by resuming your seat and buckling up when the seatbelt sign is turned on, along with turning off electronics and stowing your bags when requested.

After these things are completed the Flight Attendants will be seated in their jumpseats, dim the cabin lights, and assume their brace position for landing.

Woohoo – you are almost to your destination!

Read the rest of our Basics of Air Travel series, covering the myriad aspects of your travel experience.

    1. Checking in From Home
    2. Get to the Airport on Time
    3. Checking & Carrying on Luggage
    4. Getting Through Security – Planning
    5. Airport Security – Rules & Etiquette
    6. Getting to Your Departure Gate
    7. Boarding the Plane & Stowing Your Bags
    8. Turning Off Your Electronic Devices
    9. Safety Demonstration
    10. Beverage Service
    11. Airplane Etiquette
    12. Descent
    13. Landing & Deplaning
    14. Leaving the Airport
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