The secret language of flight attendants revealed

Jul 02, 2017

If you’ve ever overheard a conversation between flight attendants, you might be left scratching your head about what on earth they were talking about.

That’s because they use their own acronyms, abbreviations and other jargon to get their message across as quickly and as clearly as possible.

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Qantas calls this internal language Aviationese and it really is a language of itself.

Here’s a bit of a rundown of some of the most common words and phrases you’re most likely to hear in the plane cabin, so the next time you eavesdrop on the flight attendants’ conversations, you’ll at least know what they’re on about.


No, the term deadhead isn’t an insult directed at annoying passengers, but rather a word used to describe as on-duty personnel flying as a passenger on company assignment. That essentially means that the person works for the airline and is flying as part of their job but is off duty.

Jump seat

You might think this is where flight attendants go to strap themselves into a parachute before jumping out of a plane during an emergency, but the jump seat is the small area that they must sit in during take-off, landing or when there’s turbulence.


It might sound like a serious case of conjunctivitis but red eye actually refers to an overnight flight, meaning flight attendants will be doing a night shift throughout the evening.


Could this be the latest in-flight yoga craze? Not quite. TOGA means Take Off, Go Around and is used when the captain decides to abort a landing approach to try again.


These two little letters might mean air-conditioning to the rest of us, but to flight attendants and airline staff, it actually means aircraft.

Here are a few more inflight acronyms that you might come across during your flight:

  • APU – Auxiliary Power Unit, a small engine at rear of the plane
  • J and Y – Business class and economy class cabins
  • NOTAM – Notice to airmen
  • UM – Unaccompanied minor, a young person travelling alone
  • WX – Weather
  • FOD – Foreign object debris

What do you think about the secret language of flight attendants?

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