52 Phrases Only People In The Airline Industry Will Understand

They don’t look like slam-clickers. Photo: Getty

Sometimes when you’re flying the crew can talk their own language – making you worry there’s something they don’t want you know.

For example: “FAs to all-call, we are approaching an air-pocket. Please prepare for holding pattern, ensure all pax are strapped-in while we handle a 7600.”

We’ve spoken to our airline contacts and done some research on the phrases aviation industry insiders use.

Sourcing some phrases from Patrick Smith’s Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, airodyssey.net, airliners.net and rd.com, the list is broken into general terms, nicknames, and the all-important words you definitely don’t want to hear.

General use:

    All-call: A request that each flight attendant report to his or her station.

    EFC time: The expect further clearance time is the point at which a crew expects to be set free from a holding pattern or exempted from a ground stop.

    Deadhead: A deadheading pilot or flight attendant is one who is repositioning as part of an on-duty assignment. Essentially, they’re flying as passengers while on duty.

    Final approach: An aeroplane is on final approach when it has reached the last, straight-in segment of the landing pattern – that is, aligned with the extended centre-line of the runway, requiring no additional turns or manoeuvring.

    Air pocket: Colloquial for a transient jolt of turbulence.

    Flight deck: The cockpit.

    Holding pattern: A racetrack-shaped course flown during bad weather or traffic delays.

    Callsign: Phrase used in radio transmissions to identify an aircraft, before proceeding to actual instructions. For example “Qantas 005”.

    ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival.

    ETD: Estimated Time of Departure.

    F/A: Flight Attendant.

    Pax: Passengers.

    Payload: Revenue passengers and/or cargo, or more specifically their combined weight.

    PIREP: Pilot report. Weather observations reported by a pilot in flight.

    POB: Number of Persons On Board.

    Roger: Used to indicate that an instruction has been received and understood.

    Touchdown: Synonym of landing.

    UM: Unaccompanied Minor.

    Zulu: Used worldwide for times of flight operations, formerly Greenwich Mean Time, now Co-ordinated Universal Time.

    ATC: Air traffic control (some say God).


    Bird: Plane/Aircraft.

    Flyboy/girl: Pilot.

    Ramp-rat: Ground crew.

    Cowboys: Cargo Operators.

    Pointy end: First Class.

    Slam-Clicker: A flight attendant who either doesn’t socialise after a flight or is too tired to — they go straight to their hotel room, slam the door and click the lock.

    Crop Dusting: When flight attendants walk down the aisle and fart.

    Trolly Dolly: Used to describe a flight attendant pulling the cabin bag in the airport.

    Bottle to Throttle: Curfew hours. It is the cut-off time that you are allowed to have a drink before the start of your duty.

    Slinging hash: Serving the meals.

    Screamer: A passenger who has lost his or her cool.

    Steerage: Coach class.

    Cockpit queen: A flight attendant more interested in the front end of the aircraft than the cabin.

    Blue room: The bathroom.

    Tuff cuff: Plastic handcuffs for disruptive passengers.

    Crotch watch: The required check to make sure all passengers have their seat belts fastened.

    Crumb crunchers: Kids.

    Gate lice: The people who gather around the gate right before boarding so they can be first on the plane.

    George: Autopilot. “I’ll let George take over.”

    Landing lips: Female passengers put on their “landing lips” when they use their lipstick just before landing.

    Last Minute Paperwork: A delay causing the flight to wait before paper work. For example a revision to the flight plan or maintenance getting the logbook in order.

    Two-for-one special: The plane touches down on landing, bounces up, then touches down again.

What you don’t want to hear:

    Ditch: An emergency landing into water.

    Mayday: The ultimate international radio distress call, indicating imminent danger to the life of the occupants onboard and requiring immediate assistance.

    Pan Pan: International radio urgency call. It usually indicates a threat to the safety of an aircraft or its passengers. Less urgent than Mayday.

    Squawks: Problems or discrepancies with an aircraft transmitted by an assigned code. For example:

    7700 – Mayday/ Emergency

    7600 – Radio Failure/ Lost communication

    7500 – Hijacking

    5000 – Aircraft flying on Australian military operations

    Stall: When airflow over the wing slows down too much and causes a loss of lift. This can be catastrophic in a jet.

    Wake turbulence: Turbulence that forms behind an aircraft as it passes through the air. Behind a large heavy aircraft they can be powerful enough to roll or even break up a smaller aircraft.

    Windshear: Change in wind speed and/or direction over a short distance, resulting in a tearing or shearing effect, that can cause a sudden loss of airspeed with occasionally disastrous results if encountered when taking-off or landing.

    Easy Victor: Evacuate the aircraft.

    INOP: Inoperative.

    Deadstick: Flying without the aid of engine power.

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