Would You Like A History Lesson With Your Flight?

Filed Under: Travel

I love passionate people. I don’t actually care what they’re passionate about, as long as they love what they do and it shows.

I sort of realized that when I took Amtrak from San Diego to Los Angeles last month, and had a singing cafe car attendant:

While I was for a split second peeved by this guy interrupting my work to sing over the PA, my approach quickly changed when I realized he loves what he does and just wants to make people smile. And in the end I did smile.

He was interviewed on AOL Travel several years ago, and said the following:

“I have a passion about this job and seeing people enjoy themselves,” he says. “And people have problems, so anything you can do to enhance a person’s experience, and bring an interchange between people, I think is good.”

Bryant starts every trip off with his own little ditty that includes the line, “Every day’s a beautiful day for a train ride.”

In the airline industry, I always joke that Alaska Airlines pilots really wanted to be tour guides. Admittedly the West Coast and in particular the Pacific Northwest are gorgeous, so it’s not unusual for the captain to make a handful of PAs throughout the flight announcing when we’re passing landmarks, etc.

And then there’s the American pilot I had yesterday between Chicago and San Diego, who took things to a whole new level. Whole new level. Growing up he clearly didn’t just want to be a tour guide, but also a historian.

First of all, he made his announcements in English and Spanish, which I thought was pretty cool.


Then as we were taxiing to the runway he shared 90 seconds about Chicago’s history.

He did this five times throughout the flight.

It was sort of unbelievable.

By the fourth time I started recording it. Here was his fourth announcement:

We are over central New Mexico. New Mexico draws uniquely on its Hispanic past. It’s the one state that officially writes its laws and constitution in both English and Spanish. Also it is home to the longest known continuous human habitation in the western hemisphere. In the Rio Grande valley there is evidence of continuous human habitation which goes back well over 4,000 years.

Also the state capital in Santa Fe is the highest of all our state capitals at 7,300 feet of altitude, which is about the same equivalent altitude as the pressure in the cabin right now. We’ll reach it — it was called Colorado at one time by the early Spanish because they noticed the indicative rusty red color that occurs with frequency throughout the west and canyons and in some of the deserts, which comes from the high iron content. That rust of course giving us that nice reddish color. The Spanish word for the color is Colorado, which specifically refers to that red color.

Of course that word was later turned into a state and a couple of rivers.

The differing looks on peoples’ faces were hilarious. You had some people who were actually interested, while others were desperately in need of another drink after every announcement.

So what say you — would you like history and geography lessons every 45 minutes on your flight, or would you rather the captain just be quiet? Is there a perfect “middle ground” between sharing enough information but not oversharing?

  1. Back in the “good ole days” when ch9 was still a thing at UA I remember there were a handful of pilots who would make an announcement along the lines of they will be providing commentary on the flight via ch9. They would go into detail about the route and the plane and I always thought that was a neat approach to the tour guide pilot mantra. Tune in if you want and not intrusive if you don’t give a hoot. Why UA doesn’t bring back royalty-free entertainment via Ch9, well that’s just beyond me.

  2. Ha ha! This is awesome Ben! I personally like when the captain talks but not so frequent. Yet again – what can we do on board to keep us entertained? So much computer time can get somewhat boring and if the captain is willing to shine some light and share his passion as he flies the aircraft, why not? I’ve had several captains in the past who have gone on the PA a handful of times to share things they see as they fly – I find that to be unique and cool. At the end of the day they have the best view and if they are willing to share that with us the passengers i welcome that. Though as frequent as you experienced it, it can be bothersome for people – for me, it doesn’t bother me much!

  3. I could do without the history or the extraneous announcements, but I’d make an exception for extraordinary geography. The Dakota bad lands, for one example, are amazing, as is the Grand Canyon.

    Once I followed our path across upstate New York on a road map. I found Niagara Falls — which is harder to do from 30,000 feet than it sounds. I said to the FA, “Hey, have you ever seen the Falls from the air?” She bent down, looked, and then got so excited she ran to phone the pilot, who then made a PA about it.

  4. During a night flight, I’d rather have him quiet ;). But during the day, why not? It’s entertaining! They should just have a button to avoid the AVOD stopping every time.

  5. I’m with you – probably would have been slightly peeved at the interruption at first, then would have thoroughly enjoyed 60 seconds of commentary every once in a while. Life’s too short to ignore our traveling companions, even when they’re further in front than we are.

  6. Unless he’s making an announcement about an emergency or something that could affect our flight/arrival time, I’d really prefer he just shut up and fly the plane.

  7. I love the idea, except overnight flights. With overnight flights, you can’t see a thing and get really annoyed at being woken up.

  8. Your in San Diego Again ? I thought you were moving to LA, or will you be joining us in San Diego ?

  9. I’m Team History Lesson, but then again I’m a fan of historical documentaries. ..just let us sleep during an overnight flight 🙂

  10. I’d love it!! It takes Delta Glass Bottom Jet one more level.
    There’d be a good company idea – narrate podcasts of history based on common flight paths!

  11. So nice to have you back with a “back to normal post”! As long as the PA isn’t shot and you can actually hear the pilot I think it’s great! Life is for living and passion and not to be to cool to to enjoy it. Welcome back to our world Lucky Ben!!

  12. A chatty flight crew is pure hell for me. I just want to enjoy my bloody mary and read my book in peace. So here’s another vote for “shut up and fly the plane.”

  13. No. Announcements of any kind should only be made to discuss safety issues, time estimations, pre-take off and pre-landing warnings.

    Regardless of how informative, potentially interesting or humorous they should be restricted.

    I think Cathay Pacific has it right. The pilot makes a 30 second announcement at the beginning and another at the end with the proverbial, “flight attendants 30 minutes to landing” and that’s it.

    If I want a history lesson, i can use google or buy a guidebook.

    Same thing applies to flight attendants. They should make the minimum announcements in a standard and professional way and leave the humor or song for their time off.

  14. On a night-time or even an early-morning flight I would like the captain to be quiet for the sake of people who want to sleep. If it’s during the middle of the day, I actually do appreciate the captain pointing out landmarks if it’s a clear day. Seeing them from the sky is cool, and even if you’re on the aisle and can’t see them it allows you to mark your flight’s progress. But I don’t think I would ever want to hear this kind of trivia/history lesson.

  15. Personally I’m torn, due to the simple fact that pilot announcements pause the IFE.

    One the one hand, there are times when you are bored and this would be an interesting and educational relief.

    On the other hand, sometimes you’ve found something you desperately wanted to watch on the IFE, and are trying to beat the landing time in finishing it – in which case this is *very* frustrating and annoying.

    If you could have it such that these non-core announcements were optional (that is, you weren’t forced to listen if you had other priorities), like the Ch. 9 set-up mentioned by another poster, then great. Otherwise you’ll probably annoy as many people as you’ll delight.

  16. My view on this would have differed as a 12 year-old, but now, I’d say this is a big no-no. On an IFE, at least, PTV equipped aircraft, this would be very frustrating. Many people try to rest during flights with long meetings before/after flights, and being interrupted every so often by irrelevant chatter would be worthy of a complaint to the airline — which is why I avoid flying Southwest like the plague. I don’t need BS games, announcements, etc to be entertained. So, yeah, like other’s have said, I guess I am in the camp of…shut up and fly the plane!

  17. I like these types of announcements but get why others do not. I think a solution could be to add an audio channel/setting on the IFE for flight crews who wish to make extraneous announcements. When enabled by the pax the when an extraneous announcement is made it would pause the pax programming to play the announcement like the “real” announcements do for everyone.

  18. For all those who’re bothered with announcements, they’ve inventions for that. Lookup “Noice Cancelling Headphones” and “Spotify”. Kthanx

  19. I don’t mind. Remind me of a radio show about airline pilots …. “OK, for those of you seated on the left, you can see the Grand Canyon from your windows. For those of you on the right, you can see people who can see the Grand Canyon.’

  20. What gets me re: IFE is when the audio levels are MUCH louder during announcements so you have to rip off the headphones or risk blowing out an eardrum.

  21. However, because the Reading Like a Historian lessons present history in a way that may be unfamiliar, it’s important to introduce students to the basic concepts of the curriculum. How do I use these lessons in my classroom?

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