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Public Address Madness at a Terminal Near You.

Now in Ask the Pilot: The Scourge of Airport Noise. Public Address Madness at a Terminal Near You. ( More...

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David Robertson 18
Matt Smith 13
The red zone is for immediate loading and unloading only. There is no parking in the white zone.
Chris Kelishes 10
We both know perfectly well what it is you're talking about. You want me to have an abortion!
Tim Dyck 2
It’s really the only sensible thing to do…
cos3asg 13
Excellent discussion and commentary, but I am able to complicate things by injecting the issue of hearing aids into the mix. I can’t make out most of the announcements anyway, and unless I really tweak my hearing aids for a busy, noisy area, I am unable to make any meaningful sense of the noise in airports. Almost as bad on the aircraft, where the deep frequencies of the engine and airframe mask almost all conversations. It’s a trying time. Anyone else have any opinions? Cheers to all.
Bill Butler 1
I wear behind the ear aids. It helps, sometimes, to just pull the ends out and let them dangle until I get to "that". place. These are Bluetooth and have many selections from crowd to outdoors to etc. .etc. But or course all hope of understanding any verbiage, no matter how presented, is pretty much gone.
mbrews 10
Agree with the description as P.A. madness. One of the worst places is Concourse C at Newark. Where United's P.A. broadcasts LOUD cattle calls for 3 or 4 simultaneous active boardings. Poorly skilled gate agents make callouts for boarding zones, without clearly stating (or repeating) the destination involved. Creates a puzzle palace for pending passengers

On a positive note, I complimented a Delta gate agent, who handled a boarding at Tampa airport. This agent, IMO, set the gold standard for a well-run (and cheerful) boarding.
matt jensen 6
KTPA IS the most customer service oriented airport
nemosteve1080i 16
Instead of overhead speakers blaring, why not try speakers set for a much lower level and mount them to the underside of the banks of seats in waiting areas. Speaker feeds zoned for the gate the seats are located. I have used speakers under seats in many TV studios for sound reinforcement of the talent mics used on stage.
Subtle - not BLARING.

Then, once on the plane, I understand the FAA requirement for the safety video or live action demonstration for the FA's. What needs improvement is the quality and perceived speaker level of the audio from the handset microphones used for live announcements. Between FA's not knowing how to speak into the handset, the plosive breath sounds from their spiel, the coiled handset cable that is so old one hears more static than speech due to the cable being worn out. Same comments can be addressed to the announcements from the cockpit crew.

Don't get me started on the endless credit card offers that as I understand it, the FA's are REQUIRED (avoiding reprimand or termination) to perform and then do a walkthrough to hand out applications and special codes. Ever see any passenger take the application? I'm embarrassed for the FA's made to perform this sales promotion.

PA quality depends on airframer, airline, & technology (IFE) provider. Airbus has better PA systems than Boeing.
Just my observation from a barely comfortable seat.
Greer Kemp 7
Speech Intelligibility is the factor that must be improved through appropriate acoustic treatmetns and intelligent placement of speakers used for announcements.
Reducing unpleasant reverberations and controlling the reverberation time to keep it within the recommended range is critical in creating a pleasant acoustic environment, and this is all part and parcel with building what is termed by acoustics engineers "acoustic amenity".

These are all very standard components of building design and construction, but this sort of stuff really needs to be taken into account during the design phase and in coordination with all the other disciplines involved - there is a hell of a lot more involved in this science than most people realise. That being said, steps can be taken to improve the acoustic environment, even at existing terminals, although the effect may not be as all-encompasing as it would in a new design/build situation.

Aircraft acoustics is a specialised area, but still relies on certain basic issues and concepts.
I agree with your concept of improved low level acoustic coverage in echo-prone locations, where keeping the signal level within certain parameters that help reduce reverberation whilst still providing sufficient sound for good intelligibility.

Sadly, many places simply forget about acoustics and don't think about the very negative effects that bad acoustics have on people and their moods - often affecting sales in airport shopping areas, simply because it is downright unpleasant to be there.
Perry Ramsey 2
I think it would be reasonable for the FAA to step in and prohibit using the flight attendants to hawk credit cards. The FAs are there for passenger safety. The passengers should be able to expect that communication from the FAs is related to that prime mission.
SkyAware123 0
Great idea when you try to take a nap. no.
panam1971 8
I'm pretty sure Charlie Brown’s teacher got a new job as an airport PA announcer.
rlachell 8
Great article. I wear bilateral hearing aids and the gate announcements are the worst of all. In some cases, the gate agents do not know how to speak clearly, or they hold the microphone too close to their mouths. Some airports seem to have crummy systems as others here have stated. When the Pittsburgh airport opened in 1992 the paging system at the gates seemed to be much clearer than they are today. We provided training to our airline personal on how to use the system which included actual practice speaking over the system. To me the whole experience of air travel has degraded at every level. Thankfully, we have great flight crews.

One point with the article that I disagree with is this sentence, “And although Americans have a deep cultural affinity for infantilization and condescension…” This is not just an American phenomenon. In my travels through Europe and the UK, we all seem to be treated like we need our mommy.
Gary Eldridge 6
Much could be gained by training anyone who has need of making PA announcements. Speak clearly, slowly and articulate. Audio level compression could be used to make sure each individuals announcement is heard at the same volume and not one person at a whisper and the next shouting an ear splitting 98dB assault. The same should be used on board the aircraft too. Some pilots jump on the PA with an explosive aggression that makes our ears ring for minutes afterward and other pilots just jabber along saying something (I don't know what) that we just can't quite hear above the engine noise.
George Jardim 1
Total agreement. The ambient noise and chatter level in terminals is bad enough, but there and on the aircraft, announcements are made by people who do not seem to grasp that if people don't understand what you said, you just wasted your time saying it. Many announcers sound like: "AmericanAirlinesannouncesthattherewillbeagatechangeyourflightwillnowdepartfromgate43onconcourseE". Whaat? No spaces between words, no voice modulation, word endings elided, delivered at high speed, as if they just wanted to say they'd said it!
James Werner 5
Not as annoying as the constant Muzak music blaring incessantly at the crowd, most of wh have earbuds/headphones/Bluetooth hearing aids that can stream their own music - or nothing if they wish. We have far too much ambient noise already without needlessly adding to it.

And, my audiologist fitted my hearing aids with open domes to maximize their effectiveness for my particular hearing loss. So, to defend against the noise onslaught, I would have to remove my hearing aids and use headphones, in which case I could hear neither the awful music nor the announcements...wait a minute, maybe I'm not something!
Robert Gezon 4
Having just spent fifteen hours in a California terminal I thought there was far more speaker noise than silence. Surely something can be done to minimize this cacophony.
Alan Glover 1
I feel the same about the legislature.

Vote for smaller government is something.
Brian Freeman 6
Now I understand why I see so many people wearing noise cancelling headphones before they even board the plane. I just thought they were morons, but they be on to something after all...
Alan Glover 4
That's also part of the natural inclination of humans to disengage when there are many people about.

At least Bluetooth and in ears are a vast improvement over the giant boom boxes people used to carry around that folks could hear from two blocks away.

This still exists with the characters who obviously think we like the same music they do (and at the same time) as they blast their car sound systems through open windows.

Lack of consideration the child of narcissism lives on. :)
srobak 1
Yeup. There is nothing being spoken in an airport that is of any use to an air traveler. Between signage and phone apps, arrival/departure boards and following the crowds - almost anything being spoken over PA is absolutely useless.
Tony Di Bona 3
Another issue is being able to understand what is being announced due to marginal English-speaking capability or a heavy accent. I have experienced this at many of the USA flight terminals.
Paul Ipolito 3
"And although Americans have a deep cultural affinity for infantilization and condescension"

Sad, but so true.
Alan Glover -9
No shite.

Ever listen to a democrat?
Nooge -4
You might be better off all being a conned-servative with no clue

From a fact accepting conservative
SkyAware123 0
More like a con-man...
Alan Glover -3
Sure. You're a "conservative".
Tim Dyck 3
Reminds me of this scene...
Alan Glover 5
Well-written and entertaining.

Microphone technique is a thing and apparently many users receive no instructions on same.

"It isn't a hollow tube" is one I like to suggest.

And since a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, good equipment is an important component as well.

Of course the silent airport approach is the best solution to the added stress for which the ubiquitous public address systems are largely responsible.

Naturally, these announcements are doubly stressful for the airport employees who must listen to them for their entire shifts. This might help explain the less than cheerful demeanor one experiences from time to time during the flying experience.
Anna Gray 4
One of the forms of disability discrimination and disability exclusion that make airports completely inaccessible to noise sensitive Autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people. We are preparing STOA (Stop Terror of Aviation) Act to be introduced to Congress. This is one of the things that will get banned.
srobak 1
Even if you eliminate terminal PAs outright - it will have no positive net effect for these folks. To think it would is putting your head higher in the clouds than the aircraft. If not specialized transportation resources - then the only other realistic answer is private transpo. Turning large, public spaces completely upside-down for a less than 1% demographic accommodation is not only ridiculous, but also completely adverse to reality.
Alan Glover 1
Yes, more government is always the answer ;).

Noise-cancelling headphones previously mentioned are very helpful.
We all are somewhere on a spectrum and even if one doesn't perceive the angst produced by the environment you describe, it nonetheless affects us all.
john mcdonnell 2
Back in the 60's GSO tower had the capability of making announcements on the PA system in the terminal. We lost that capability when Percy announced: "All United passengers who have not already done so- DO IT IMMEDIATELY !!! Chaos prevailed and smarter folks pulled the phone out.
Tony Ward 2
Great article. Australia is almost (not quite) as bad. As a frequent traveller arriving into LAX from Australia, the most irritating (read "stressful") part (after a 13 hr flight) is the myriad people literally SHOUTING such pointless instructions as "keep walking this way to immigration" and "have your passport ready for inspection". Really? What helpful information at 40 db.......... It is a very unfortunate "welcome" to the USA, every single time.
Greg S 5
A very well-written and on-point piece. Sadly, a reduction in pointless announcements will never happen in America where most airports are government-run and common sense is not on the agenda.
Peter Fuller 6
Most cities have only one commercial airport, and many of those have only one terminal. People who need/want to fly to or from these airports or terminals can’t choose a quieter alternative. Whether government-run or privately-run, that’s a monopoly situation where there’s no competitive advantage to be gained by putting a lid on the cacophony.
Alan Glover 1
I wonder why the noisy route is chosen.

Is it easier for the airport authority to have a noisy terminal?

Wouldn't a calmer atmosphere be better for the powers that be not unlike the examples in the article?
avionik99 9
Thats because America allow people to sue (AND WIN) stupid lawsuits. We must cater to the dumbest of the dumb or they will whine and cry and sue and win.
C J 4
Based on your past comments on this site, I'd be willing to guess you've threatened to sue companies when you don't get your way. The people who complain about others "whining and crying" usually are the worst offenders...
Nooge 4
The people who complain about others "whining and crying" usually are the worst offenders.

Makes me think of Tiny
Anna Gray 2
Stop calling noise sensitive disabled people dumb. We are not. Disability exclusion is illegal. It is not that we want to get our way. It is that we have human rights and disability rights. If you do not like this fact then move to North Korea.
srobak 0
That's not at all what he said. Stop putting words in other people's mouths. This isn't the first time you have done that.
SkyAware123 1
IF these announcements stress you, you have other problems. Who cares? I prefer they announce things you could actually hear better.
srobak 1
Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas.

Often heard shortly before the melody of "It's a small world afterall" searing into your friggin skull for 22 minutes in every language under the sun.
Grd Newell 0
Trying to finish a movie on Westjet whilst a WS flight attendant got to show off her French speaking skills.


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