Dauntless JaunterExplore • Educate • Experience • Enlighten

Airline, Pilot, and Flight Attendant Lingo & Slang


Airline Slang: Here are some words and phrases that pilots, flight attendants, and other airline staff have created and use now as their own lingo & slang.

Updated: 2017-12-07
Like every industry, airlines have developed their own jargon, neologisms, and slang terms to use. Perhaps it is to not make something said aloud known to us common passengers, or maybe they’ve just used these terms enough as to be unable to separate these words and phrases from their everyday vocabulary.

Here are some interesting words and phrases from our travel glossary that pilots, flight attendants, and other airline staff (and even passengers) have adopted and created and use now as their own lingo and slang:

A/C – Crew-speak for the aircraft.

Add-On – A member of the flight that was added to the itinerary at the last minute, such as a flight attendant who was not listed on the flight schedule but was penciled in due to another calling in sick.

“Arm the Doors” – Pre-flight task meaning to make sure that the door is secure and evacuation slides are properly set according to the exits.

Base – Flight crew term for their home airport; where the flights originate from and terminate at.

Bid – When a flight attendant puts in a request for a specific route or schedule, they are bidding.

Blue Juice – The water in the toilet in the restroom, presumably from the days when toilets used those disinfectant bricks in the tanks which colored the water blue; most toilets in airplane restrooms these days don’t usually have a pool of water at the bottom, but rather a small flap.

Blue Room – In airline slang, it is used to refer to the lav/bathroom, due to the other popular term, “blue juice.” The Blue Room can also refer to the airport lounge of the Virgin Australia airline, as it was once named Virgin Blue.

Bottle to Throttle – Curfew hours. In airline parlance, it is the time that a person has between the time they must not have another alcoholic beverage and the time of their next flight; often 12 hours.

Commute – Process of getting to starting destination or base. Pilots and flight attendants may live in one city but have another city as their base, and thus may have to commute there.

Crash Pad – The term used by flight attendants (and sometimes pilots) to refer to a rented apartment; crash pads are usually shared by several flight attendants at a time.

Crotch Watch – Also referred to as a “groin scan,” this is the rounds that the flight attendants make prior to liftoff and descent that ensures that all passengers’ seat belts are on and properly fastened.

Crumb Crunchers – A not-so-diplomatic term that flight attendants use to refer to children passengers.

Deadhead – When an airline employee, such as a pilot or flight attendant, flies as a passenger, they are deadheading if it is part of their job, such as when they aren’t on the clock but need to return to another airport for some reason. Usually a deadheader stays in uniform.

Equipment – The plane itself. When there is an “equipment change,” it usually means they are switching out the aircraft for a different one.

F/A – Flight attendant.

Ferry Flight – Delivery of an aircraft to a specific destination without paying passengers aboard.

Gate Lice – The term used for the crowd of people who amass around the gate and gate agents when anticipating boarding the plane. When the gate lice are thick, that means that this crowd is not letting others board first by blocking the gate.

George – A colloquial term for “autopilot.” This comes from the early days of flight, when pilots found the idea so magical and novel that it felt that they had another pilot in the cockpit with them.

Green Aircraft – Slang term referring to a plane fresh from the factory, and one which has an interior that still isn’t complete.

Groin Scan – Another name for the “crotch watch,” which is when the flight attendants make their rounds to ensure that all seat belts are properly fastened.

Holding Pen – Airport slang for the waiting area at an airport gate where passengers wait prior to boarding the aircraft.

Illegal – A working member of an aircraft, whether it be a pilot or flight attendant, who crosses over the maximum hours allowed to work per flight, day, or schedule without sleep or a break.

Interphone – The phones located throughout the cabin, allowing the cabin crew to speak to each other in various cabins, as well as to reach the flight deck and pilots when the door is shut.

Jump Seat – A flight term referring to an auxiliary (extra) seat for persons who are not operating the aircraft, such as the cabin crew or perhaps a trainee pilot in the flight deck. Often used to denote the drop-down seat that flight attendants strap themselves into during takeoff and landing.

Kettle Class – A mocking term for economy or coach class, taken from the hillbilly characters of Ma and Pa Kettle.

Landing Lips – A term originally referring to when flight attendants (overwhelmingly female in the past) would put on their lipstick and other makeup to make themselves presentable to passengers as they bid them farewell on the way out. Today, passengers also use this term to mean that they are getting ready to deplane.

Line – The schedule of trips a flight attendant is offered each month, referring to the entire sequence.

Line Holder – A flight attendant working a line, and not on reserve.

Lounge Lizard – A flight attendant who is working the line currently and who would skip the use of a crash pad, instead sleeping in the lounge at the airport, usually to save money.

Narrowbody – A plane with one aisle down the center. As opposed to a widebody.

Non-rev – Short for “Non-revenue,” it is an airline employee or a family member who takes advantage of the company perks to fly at a nominal cost, or free.

Offline City – A city to which an airline or flight does not fly.

Pax – An abbreviation for “passengers” that has been adopted into everyday usage by many in the airline industry.

Slam-Click – In general slang, this means to go straight to one’s room and lock the door (slam the door, click it shut/locked). In airline parlance, a flight attendant who is working and stuck in a foreign city for the night may be called a slam-clicker if he/she just goes straight to bed, instead of perhaps partying with the rest of the flight crew.

Spinners – Term used by flight crew to denote a kind of unwanted passenger. For some, a “spinner” is one who gets on late and doesn’t have a seat assignment or know which seat is theirs, so they “spin around” looking for it. Some use the term to denote a passenger who, upon exiting the plane and entering the airport after the jetway, “spins around” to get their bearings as they don’t know where to go. Another definition states that a spinner is one who is unhappy with their seat assignment, and thus walks down the aisle of the plane looking for a better option, “spinning around” at the very end and making their way back. In all cases, “spinners” are all but unwelcome.

Transcon – A transcontinental flight – across one continent or country.

Turn – A flight that leaves base and returns back to base in the same day. Also known as a turnaround.

Two-for-One Special – When the plane hits the runway upon landing, bounces up for a moment, then slams down again for good. Contrary to what your anxiety might be telling you, pilots often do this on purpose; when the runway appears slick, such as during rain or snow, the pilots have to slam the plane down so that the wheels break the water plane and can gain traction.

Widebody – A large plane with a row of seats going down the center, meaning there are two aisles in the main cabin. As opposed to a narrowbody.

Working the Village – Working in coach or economy class; airline employees aren’t the most diplomatic of people, apparently.

Z Time – Pilot-speak for Greenwich Mean Time, Mean Solar Time.

For more airplane and flight related words and lingo, as well as words, phrases, and terms related to travel in general, please check out the Dauntless Jaunter travel glossary. Got another one to add, post a comment below 🙂

Updated: 2017-06-22
Reason: Migration of site from the old, long URL (www.dauntlessjaunter.com) to this long-overdue shorter one 🙂 (we may have updated some typos or metadata while we were at it)

Written by
Christian Eilers
Join the discussion

  • Interesting collection! 🙂 Kettle Class? I know it as “Cattle Class”. “Z time” is short for “Zulu time”.

  • Another well used term is “con”. In airline lingo, this is short for “contingent passenger” and is applied to a passenger who is likely an airline employee and travelling on a standby, non-revenue ticket. The “contingent” term refers to the passenger’s status as only being able to travel if all revenue and senior standby ticket holders have been accommodated. If one hears the term “con” from an airline employee, it does NOT mean they are a convict, though travelling standby on busy routes an employee often feels like they are a prisoner at the airport waiting to see if there is an available seat on the NEXT flight out.

  • Slang from the engineers crew room.
    cabin staff can be refered to by engineers as “cart tarts” or “trolly dolly’s” both of which would earn you a slap if they were to over hear refer to them as that lol.
    “Blue ice” that leaking toilet valve as water leaks out and freezes on the outside as the a/c is on decent air warms up and it falls off onto some ones house who then puts in the freezer to show people what fell on their house!
    ” Honey cart” toilet servicing cart/truck
    Pilots “monkeys” as now every thing is controlled by computer “it’s light on-switch-reward ie light off”) and thats what monkeys do for their reward ie banana’s
    “self loading freight” = passengers
    “crash position” = we are all going to die!
    “pickings” engineers term for raiding the galley after a flight to whats good to eat or take to crew room for later. 1st class is the best for pickings!
    “jungle juice” =fuel
    “bit for mum” = wife and kids, pilots putting extra fuel on over and above flight plan load.
    “hair dryer” =air start unit
    “Pram” = turbo prop a/c
    “shed” = shorts 360 a/c
    ” Concorde”= the sexest a/c ever made
    “pocket rocket” Bac 1-11= fixed thrust variable noise
    “big pocket rocket” Vickers VC10 2nd sexest a/c ever made even more noise.
    “CAA desert” thats when you are on detachment with a a/c with limited support.
    “party time” going on the Haj detachment to the CAA desert with one DC10 and 4 crews of girls (36) and only 12 flt deck crew! for 5 to 6 weeks!

    After over 47 years in a/c engineering and still enjoying it, all be semi-retired it’s a career that I would do over again.


  • Ram Rats – What Baggage Handlers are called by Flight Crews
    Bus Drivers – What pilots are called by Ramp Rats
    Stews – what nobody calls a Flight Attendant anymore
    Bag Busters – Also Baggage Handlers
    Freight Busters – Freight Handlers
    Wrench-turners – Mechanics, naturally
    DBC’d – Passenger who had to be given compensation because the flight was oversold
    Rule 240 – From the old Tariff system when a passenger who is being re-routed to another airline has his/her ticket endorsed directly to that airline for the other airline to be able to collect the fare.
    OA – Other Airline
    Bumped – Passenger can’t get on the flight because it’s booked full. Also applies to non-revs who don’t get on a flight because some paying passenger has the nerve to show up right at departure time and take the last seat.
    USAGE: “I had to bump two DBC’s and Rule 240 them to OA”
    Runners or OJ’s – Late-getting-to-the-gate passengers. “I’ve got two OJ’s for 451 to Vegas”
    Open-seating – means either the gate computer us down or the gate agents gave up on mixed up seat assignments so they just told the last passengers to board, “Take any open seat”
    LOB – Left off bag. Either got to the gate too late or the Ramp Rat didn’t make a last sweep of the bag room to get the late bags.
    PAWOB – Passenger Arriving Without Bag – the unlucky stiff whose bag was an LOB.
    U/M – Unaccompanied minor that has to be watched continuously until boarding so they don’t decided to go running off down the concourse.
    Do you have any Specials? – Gate Agent to Flight Attendant-speak for ‘any wheelchairs, aisle chairs, passengers with bass violas or U/M’s.’ Any passengers that require special handling.

    There’s a bunch more and I invite other airline folk past or present to chip in.

    Fun stuff to read!

Dauntless Jaunter