If you’ve been on social media lately, then you’ve probably heard a rumor about a supposed secret in Animal Crossing: New Horizons — or at least a version of it. Known as the “airport trick,” the method is supposed to ensure that you get a rare mystery island tour when taking a flight at the airport.
The specifics on the airport trick vary from person to person, based on what I’ve seen in viral posts on both Twitter and TikTok. The first version of the trick I heard states that you needed to go into your airport and clap until Orville “blushes.” Another version of the rumor says that Orville has to be on his computer when you go in. A third version claims that the tool that you walk in with will determine what kind of island you get — for instance, if you go in with a shovel and make Orville embarrassed, he’ll supposedly take you to money rock island. (Watering can is for hybrid flowers, nets are for rare bugs, fishing rod is for better fish, and so on.) A fourth version of the old wives’ tale says that doing the trick only increases your chances, but doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a rare island. Most people say that it only works once a day, though some claim they’ve done it more than once.
All of these can’t possibly be true, but here’s what I can say based on some testing. I tried the trick on three days in a row, for a total of eight times, and I only got a special island once — money rock island. All other times, I either got a standard island with my native fruit and some rocks, or something actively bad, like trash island. I got bamboo island once, but that’s not particularly special. Two Polygon staffers tried it multiple times with me, and got standard islands every time. Sometimes, it was hard to get Orville to do anything other than clap or stare back. I asked my followers on Twitter, and half of my responses said it didn’t work at all. The other half said it only worked for them “sometimes,” or only once. Searching Twitter for “airport trick” also tells me that it’s a total crapshoot for others trying it; some got something good, while some wasted their Nook Miles ticket.
So, what’s going on? Why is this rumor gaining so much traction if it only seems to work some of the time, for some people, and with some asterisks or under totally different conditions? My guess is this: With millions of people playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, statistically speaking, anyone taking a flight still has a chance of getting a rare island, trick or no trick. The people for whom it seems to work report back excitedly, because they feel they’ve discovered a hidden mechanic. Those responses then get faved or shared, and anyone else for whom the trick didn’t work gets buried, which is not as exciting to talk about.
The airport trick feels particularly impossible to dispute because of how many different variations of the method exist, including one that says the trick only increases your chances and doesn’t ensure it. That leaves wiggle room that allows the rumor to proliferate regardless of truth — if you didn’t get it, it could still be legit! Just keep trying!
It also doesn’t help that Animal Crossing is legitimately full of tiny mechanics that it never mentions or explains, which makes it easy to believe that the game could contain something like this. Plus, Orville’s reaction almost makes it seem true — why would he react otherwise? The reality, of course, is that Animal Crossing features plenty of minute details that you may never see. I’m not surprised that Nintendo included a special Orville animation for the few people who emote at him.
But even if this whole thing isn’t real, one thing is certain: Orville deserves to be celebrated, and on that basis alone, it’s worth clapping for him anyway.
Correction: A previous version of this story confused the dodos Orville and Wilbur. But Wilbur should get some of your love, too.
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