Mormons greet returning missionaries at Salt Lake City International Airport - Photo: Cory Doctorow | FlickrCC

Mormons greet returning missionaries at Salt Lake City International Airport – Photo: Cory Doctorow | FlickrCC

I like flying, but it is also tiring. If I have had a few connections (perhaps some missed connections), a bumpy flight, long layovers, or an extra early wake up call, I’m worn out. When I land, I just want to get off a plane, grab my bags, and get home. I really don’t want anything to get in my way. As I’m walking down the concourse, the last thing I want is for people to hinder me. Get out of my way! You’re not here to greet me.

But, let’s consider both sides of an issue – how should groups behave as a welcoming party at an airport. Sure there are some single folks waiting for their loved one and you also get the families waiting for a child flying by themselves. Going a bit larger (and louder) you can find military service members, who have been gone for a long time, receiving a wonderful “welcome back.” All these people are deserving of welcomings, but can it go too far? How can an airport make it a win-win for everyone? And is there a limit where people should be respecting other passengers? Let’s take a look at an airport close to me, the big homecomings at Salt Lake City International Airport.

People who frequently fly in and out of Salt Lake City (SLC), my home airport, encounter such instances more frequently. As home to the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a large population of the faith’s adherents, there are many days when passengers face large crowds (with 30 to 40 people) welcoming Mormon missionaries who are coming home from long stints proselyting. There are parents, siblings, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, lots of cousins, friends, high school coaches’¦ and even professional videographers! They hold signs, ring cowbells, cheer, hold balloons and flowers, conduct flash mobs, and sometimes get in the way.

The video above shows the extreme, but is it too extreme? As a Mormon myself, I understand how special getting a greeting like this can be to everyone, but I know I might not be so happy to have this as a grumpy passenger, just trying to move along through the airport.

Even the Church issued a statement, after 9/11, urging families to limit the greeting party to immediate family and move the party elsewhere. As obnoxious as they sometimes are, they don’t mean to bother passengers, but they desperately want to welcome home their missionary.

A few Delta birds at SLC - Photo: Daniel Betts | FlickrCC

A few Delta birds at SLC – Photo: Daniel Betts | FlickrCC

So, what’s an airport to do? On one hand they need to make things as pleasant as possible for travelers who fly. However, they don’t want to rain on the parade of those who are eager to welcome home their beloved family friends — service members, missionaries, and others.

Recently The Salt Lake Tribune’s Amy McDonald covered how the airport hopes to accommodate large crowds. As part of its multi-year renovation, the airport plans to have a greeting area devoted to large groups in place by 2020.

Spokesperson Bianca Shreeve explained to McDonald that, ’œWe love being the home base for so many people and the love that is brought about by these crowds…. Being around that is pretty special. We appreciate being the venue for that.’

As someone who has experienced both sides of this issue, I sympathize with the traveler and the large groups. This greeting area idea is appealing and a win-win for the happy passengers looking to reconnect with loved ones, and for the grumpy folks, who just want to get home.

What experiences have you seen and been a part of? Is the possible disturbance worth it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

This story was written by Steve Petersen, for AirlineReporter. Steve was born and raised an AvGeek by a retired fighter and airline pilot and a mother who wore those famous Top Gun sunglasses before they were cool.  One of his other passions is bow ties, and he blogs about them at Bow Tie Aficionado.

From time-to-time we will share contributions from others on AirlineReporter. If you have strong writing skills, a passion for aviation and a story to tell, then learn about potentially sharing your story and then contact us.
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Crowds will always be unavoidable. Best thing to do is observe, then beeline for an open space. As a volunteer at SEA, I sometimes monitor the intl arrivals and have to tell pax not to crowd the escalators. They often think of me as an arsehole, but it’s really for their own safety. There have been several cases of people tripping at the top of the escalator. Worse, it holds up the back of the line which can cause further injuries – the escalator is always moving…do as the escalator and keep moving.

That is a really good point that I didn’t think about either. I fly into SEA often and even though I know no one is there to great me, I get distracted looking at all the waiting faces riding up the escalator and could see people causing issues.

David | AirlineReporter

I appreciate how you find balance in the story. It’s great to see the SLC community and airport are responsive to finding a solution amenable for all. I wish my own community was willing to work together to overcome challenges. Well done, SLC peeps!


Mrbill 757

As a former pilot, I always was moved by large crowds awaiting the arrival of loved ones. If only everyone enjoyed the love of others. I sometimes wonder what makes some people grumble all the time. Probably self-centeredness I imagine. The only problem with meeting folks at the airport is the lack of bathrooms and restaurants outside the security checkpoints, but a lot of airports were built prior to 9/11. One thing about airport venacular. A “layover” is just like it says – its when a person “lays” down somewhere along the way to their destination, i.e. he or she stays at a hotel. Its a crewmwmber term. On a three day trip a crewmember will have layovers in LA and Chicago for instance. Some crewmembers might also get “layed” on their “stayover”, but that’s another story. When someone has to spend time between airports between flights that’s called a “connection”, NOT a “layover”. You connect at an airport from one flight to another. It’s so maddening to see our use of language so twisted these days………

Very good point. It’s a subtle thing, but nailing the terminology can set a writer apart.

Hello Mr. Bill, please have a look at this. Your views please,

I’m not Mr. Bill, but writing and editing pay my bills. I can’t cite Wikipedia as a credible source – I’d have to use something like the Associated Press Stylebook, which doesn’t have an entry for this (I think AP should have an entire air travel section with some of the most-misused words). Neither does Garner’s Modern American usage, which is another resource I use. The dictionary definition is very unspecific … something like “a stoppage in a journey” which could apply to everything from getting gas while driving to work to a 747 captain spending a few days in Brussels before heading back to New York.

One of the great takeaways I got from Steven Pinker’s book “The Sense of Style” is to, when in doubt, use the word how people use it. I usually see “layover” in the context of spending overnight somewhere. I hear flight crews announce connections to the next flight.

Sure, you could use “layover” for “connection,” I suppose. It’s not the dividing line separating us from the barbarians or anything. Writers who sweat about details like this, though, add authority to their writing. It’s really subtle – you might not even realize it. But it adds up.


Unfortunately, there is a significant degree of cultural illiteracy when it comes to various aspects of the airline industry. Most people have little knowledge about airports, airplanes, a crew members lifestyle, etc. I can’t hardly begin to tell you how many people have asked me over the years what “routes” I fly! Back in the 50s and 60s maybe that was the case but a crewmember’s schedule changes every month for the most part. Most not only fly different days, but different destinations as well. Then there’s people out there who still refer to flight attendants as “stewardesses”, instead of “flight attendants”, though I wish we could still call them “stews”. Lots of people refer to the concrete at an airport as the “tarmac”, when its actually called “the ramp”. There’s even a radio frequency that pilots use that is called “ramp” frequency. Once an airplane is clear of the ramp area, pilots switch over to “ground” for communucations during their time on the taxiways which lead them to the runway. Then there’s the cockpit term, which is now seen as politically incorrect by people who seem to be full of themselves and think they’re so enlightened by the feminist movement that they now call it the “flight deck”. I resisted using that term and held on to cockpit til the day I retired. Being politically incorrect these days is a real badge of honor in my view!! In the meantime, if you’re sitting in business class these days and see a soldier heading for coach, consider swapping seats with him.

Hi Justin, as long as your bills get sorted, im sure you would be happy. Thank you for your time.

Hello Mr. Bill, do you have a blog? Appreciate your time.


Stanley, No blog. If I had one, I’d spend way too much time on it!!!!

bob voltage

“As I”m walking down the concourse, the last thing I want is for people to hinder me. Get out of my way! You”re not here to greet me.”

Roger that. Crowd control should be implemented.

As long as they are orderly, leaving sufficient room for those not involved I think it is perfectly fine. A small amount of humanity is needed in this world.

Mr. Grouch. Just take things in stride. I am sorry that no one was here to greet you but please afford some courtesy for those who have.

Very nice write up, made me realise the eagerness of people to receive or see off their dear ones are the same across many borders.

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