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I've seen several questions asked from an 'enthusiastic passenger' perspective. Examples:

The response to these has been mixed but mostly negative and the third one is currently on hold (although I think the first answer given was very good and phrased appropriately for the question). Typically the comments say the questions are too vague or can't be clearly answered.

I think these questions are on-topic for this site but the issue of vagueness is real. By definition the questioners are not experts and therefore can't phrase their questions precisely.

If we consider the extreme positions we could take on this, we can either reject these questions completely and focus on becoming an 'experts only' site; or we can try to provide general answers and pointers to further reading. The first option alienates people who have genuine curiosity but little technical knowledge about aviation; the second risks discussions, follow-up questions and answers that other community members reject as vague or incomplete ("you forgot to mention the case where...").

On the whole I would prefer to try to answer passenger questions wherever possible, but actually doing that in a way that balances the two extremes may not be easy.

What do others think?

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I think you defined the problem accurately in one sentence:

I think these questions are on-topic for this site but the issue of vagueness is real.

I was having a discussion with someone here at Stack Exchange yesterday who asked me the same question: would you consider passenger related questions on-topic? I think passenger questions which relate directly to the operation of an aircraft seem on-topic. Questions which relate more to "travel concerns" like frequent flyer miles programs, would almost certainly be off-topic.

The issue is, as you said, that passengers don't necessarily know how to ask a precise question. If someone wants to know the basic overview of a topic, that's what wikipedia is for. If someone reads something in a wikipedia article, and is looking for clarification, this site is a great place for that.

What would probably be best practice would be to close questions that are too broad, but in the comments, point them to somewhere that might give them enough information to come back later with more specific questions. This is a normal practice on Stack Exchange sites and helps keep our answers concise and useful.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you've pretty much hit the nail on the head. My $3.50: Most of the questions someone might ask me their first time (or two or three) up in a plane seem very much on-topic to me - though questions like "How do you know where we're going?" might be a little too broad to reasonably cover, and the best thing we can do in those cases is help them narrow down what they're curious about. $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Dec 21 '13 at 1:16
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with both of you. Is there any way when suggesting or making edits to get buy-in from the original asker of the question? That might make it possible for experts to suggest alternate or more-focused questions while not inadvertently repurposing the question completely. $\endgroup$ – egid Dec 21 '13 at 6:18
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    $\begingroup$ @egid I think all it would take to help with that is to explain that this site is for more specific questions, then point them at a source or two of general information, and say if they find any details confusing or any of their questions are left unanswered, to feel free to come back and post them. I don't think that would leave anyone incredibly off-put since there was an explicit welcome back included. Granted, some people will never get the Stack Exchange concept, or understand the problem it solves, but I don't think we need to worry too much about them. $\endgroup$ – Bret Copeland Dec 21 '13 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Of course...travel.SE is a suitable migration target for air-passenger questions that don't fit here $\endgroup$ – UnrecognizedFallingObject Apr 15 '15 at 2:40

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