The Airline Codes They Never Tell You About

by SharonKurheg

Over the years, we’ve taught our fellow travelers special codes they’re not necessarily supposed to know about:

There’s plenty of other types of industry lingo though. Sometimes they’re established so businesses can quickly and effectively communicate with their employees without their guests, customers, passengers, etc. knowing what they’re talking about.

Case in point, when I worked at The Disney Store a bajillion years ago (well, not a bajillion. Just  1996-1998. R.I.P., store #535 in the Staten Island Mall!), we had our own words and signs to communicate with each other. For example, at Disney, everyone in your store was a “guest.” But if it looked as if someone was shoplifting, you were supposed to refer to them as a “customer,” so your managers and fellow workers would know your suspicions, keep an eye on them, etc. Signing the letter “T” in American Sign Language (ASL) to whoever was the manager of the moment ((I heard other stores used the ASL letter “B,” to mean “bathroom”) was your way of letting them know you had to use the toilet and needed someone to take your spot for a few minutes, without screaming “I GOTTA PEE!” across the store (that’d be very “unDisney”).

a black and white image of a hand

The letter T in ASL

But sometimes the industry lingo, acronyms and abbreviations aren’t so much something secret than just a means to make communication faster. The airline industry, in particular, has lots and lots of these. Travel geeks probably know a lot of them, like PAX for passengers. But they may not know them all. Like these (Note: Lingo can change, especially from country to country. I’ve added in the differences that I know):

  • ABP – Able Bodied Passenger
  • AC – Aircraft (sometimes A/C)
  • AFT – Back of the aircraft
  • All Call- the purser or head FA calls all the other FAs and they verbally verify the status of their doors
  • AOG – Aircraft on Ground
  • AOM – Aircraft Operations Manual
  • APU – Auxiliary Power Unit (here’s why YOU need to know about this)
  • ATA – Actual Time of Arrival
  • ATC – Air Traffic Control
  • ATD – Actual Time of Departure
  • BCF – Bromochlorodifluoromethane (general term for the fire extinguishers usually found on board aircraft)
  • BOB – Buy on Board
  • CA – Captain (Captain is sometimes CPT, outside the U.S.) or (outside the U.S.) Cabin Attendant
  • CAA – Civil Aviation Authority (the UK version o the FAA)
  • CC – Cabin Crew
  • CCM – Cabin Crew Member
  • Crosscheck – Checking the work of another FA (usually in relation to the status of their assigned exit)
  • Different Classes of tickets:
    — J – Business class (years ago, C was Business class. Times change)
    — PY – Premium Economy class
    — X – Standby ticket/status
    — Y – Economy class
  • DH – Deadhead. Traveling on an aircraft as a passenger while on-duty (often in uniform). Flight attendants will deadhead to reposition for flight segments originating from other cities. i.e. “I had to deadhead to Boston.”
  • DOB – Death on Board
  • Doors to automatic/Arm doors for departure/ prepare doors for departure ( FAs arm the evacuation slide)
  • Doors to manual/disarm doors/ prepare doors for arrival (FAs disengage the slide)
  • ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival
  • ETD – Estimated Time of Departure
  • FA – Flight Attendant
  • FAA – Federal Aviation Agency
  • FARs – Federal Aviation Regulations (read: the rules the FAA make)
  • FAM – Federal Air Marshall
  • F/D – Flight Deck
  • FFDO -“Federal Flight Deck Officer.” A designated pilot who is armed in order to defend the cockpit against terrorist attacks and air piracy.
  • FO – First Officer
  • FOB – Fuel on Board
  • FSB – Fasten Seat Belt
  • FWD – front of the aircraft
  • Gash – Trash or garbage
  • HK – on your reservation is the code for a ticketed and seat assigned passenger
  • IFE – In Flight Entertainment
  • INF – Infant
  • J/S – Jump Seat
  • LAV – lavatory (toilet/bathroom)
  • LEO – Law Enforcement Officer (An armed law enforcement individual on the aircraft who may or may not be on duty. LEOs are informed when other LEOs and FAMs are onboard and the captain is also always advised of their presence)
  • LOD/O – Language of Destination/Origin (A FA who is assigned to an international trip as a second language speaker)
  • L1, L2, R1, R2, etc. – The positions where CC are assigned. L1 would be the senior crew member, at the left front door (L1) of the aircraft.
  • MEL – Minimum Equipment List (an FAA-approved document that spells out what equipment is allowed to be inoperative at the time of dispatch and for how long)
  • NOB – Nothing left to Buy Onboard
  • Non-Rev – Non-Revenue (airline employees and others who are traveling using space-available passes)
  • OB – overbooked
  • OS – Oversold
  • OWWE – Over Wing Window Exit
  • PA – Public Address system
  • PAX – Passenger (some airlines insist on calling them Guests)
  • PIC – Pilot in Command
  • PIL – Passenger Information List (sometimes is ePIL. Air France has PPIL for Post PIL)
  • STA – Scheduled Time of Arrival
  • STD – Scheduled Time of Departure
  • SOL – Souls on Board (how many people are on the plane. In an emergency, the CA will let Air Traffic Control or anyone else involved in the emergency the total number of PAX and CC onboard as “souls on board “ to quickly communicate how many live pax there originally were, for rescue ops)
  • RON – Remain Overnight (a layover that includes a hotel stay)
  • UNAM – Unaccompanied minor
  • U/S – Unserviceable
  • WCH – Wheelchair
  • WCHR – A passenger who required a wheelchair between the terminal and the aircraft, but who can move about the aircraft cabin, as well as up and down stairs
  • WCHS – A passenger who required a wheelchair between the terminal and the aircraft, but who can move about the aircraft cabin, but can’t walk up and down stairs
  • WL – waitlisted
  • #1 – Leftmost engine
  • #2,3,4 – Each engine as you move right (everything is from the POV of the CA, as they look forward)
  • 1L – First door on the left
  • 2R – Second door on the right
  • 4L – 4th door on the left

There are literally HUNDREDS of other acronyms and phrases that aviation crew use – especially when you consider variations from country to country. But that’s a good start. 😉

(if you’re in aviation and can think of other legit ones that are particularly important, please reply and let us know!)

Feature Image: Pexels

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1 comment

Miles July 7, 2024 - 11:19 am

A member of the cabin crew once told me that a FA who speaks a second language is called a “Talker”.


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