On a flight home this afternoon, ten minutes before we landed, the lead attendant made the usual announcement about “our final descent” that included two things that always catch my ear.

One is the verb “stow” (as in “stow your tray table in the upright and locked position”), a word I have never heard used anywhere except on an airplane (the same applies to “lavatory,” which even kindergarten teachers don’t say anymore).

The other thing he said was, “Welcome to St. Louis” — even though we were still 100 miles away from Lambert Airport. You can’t welcome me someplace we haven’t arrived yet. When a cabbie drives me to my house from the airport, he doesn’t welcome me home in the middle of I-270. And since you’re going to welcome me again as soon as our wheels touch the runway, what’s the rush? Are you worried I’ll feel unwelcome?

The only other person I know who does this is Randy Jackson on “American Idol,” who continues to tell contestants who have sung well enough to earn a gold ticket, “Welcome to Hollywood!” even though they’re still in Charlotte, North Carolina.  You don’t want to be like Randy Jackson, do you, dawg?

This was also my fifth consecutive flight on Southwest where none of the announcements included anything humorous or distinctive. Considering this has always been part of the Southwest brand that sets it apart from its more straight-laced competitors, I wonder if it’s coincidence or if corporate has made a change for the worse.

A sample of things I’ve heard in Southwest onboard announcements:

  • “There’s a $2,500 fine for disabling the smoke detector in the bathroom, and we know you don’t have that kind of money, or you’d be flying Delta!”
  • “If the oxygen masks drop down, put one over your mouth first, then choose which child has the most potential and take care of them next.”
  • “Your seat cushions can be used for flotation, and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments.”
  • “To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt, and if you don’t know how to operate one, you probably shouldn’t be out in public unsupervised.”

Next time I fly, I’m going to see if the Southwest sense of humor is officially gone, by stowing my tray table on our penultimate descent and welcoming the flight attendant to the row behind me.