Cabin Crew Jargon You Might Not Know

Every job and industry has it very own and unique jargon and words. The aviation industry is no exception. Cabin Crew Jargon, in my opinion, is one of the richest in funny expressions that is out there. Some of the words, expressions and acronyms I’ll be talking about are safety and security related while others or just used to be incomprehensible to passengers. So let’s dive into this crash course of Cabin Crew Jargon.

Emirates A380 Aircraft Seen From Below
Emirates A380 Aircraft Seen From Below

Roster

Often if you walk into a mid-flight conversation between two flight attendants you will hear them talk about their roster. This is none other than their schedule. Most airlines, as a matter of fact, schedule their crew once a month. When I was in Emirates this used to happen between the 20th and the 25th day of each month. Also we used to get to know who we were flying with. So that we could either prepare or just try get off the flight by swapping it!

Bidding (Top Bid)

We’re not talking about auctions for diamonds or anything, but you’d sure see crew bitch about this. Many airlines, offer their crew members the opportunity share with the scheduling team which flights they would like to do the following month. The entire crew force was divided into groups. These groups would rotate in a priority system where 1 group would be top bid. For instance if this month group 1 is top bid, then next month group 2 would be top bid. But of course certain destinations are more popular than others and more often than not you wouldn’t get the flight you wanted. And that’s when the bitching starts.

Deadhead

This sound like what you would call someone you think is an idiot. But indeed it isn’t what it means. It simply refers to to a crew member who is not operating on a particular flight, but is still on duty. So this doesn’t refer to flights when they might be on holiday and travelling as a passenger.

ABP

Able Bodied Passengers. Every crew member needs to spot these on every flight in their designated area. These are passengers that in case of an emergency crew members will ask for help. These might be deadheading crew members, other airline crew members that may be travelling as passengers or just simple passengers that are healthy and that look sturdy enough. The emergency exit rows are always occupied by ABPs that’s why telling the check in staff you want one of those seats because your leg hurts is never going to get you in one.

Ferry Flight

This is a flight with crew on it, but no passengers. Why would you do this you ask? Well simply you need to position the aircraft for a specific sector. For example during the pilgrimage season to Mekkah you have 2 big waves, when pilgrims go and when they come back. So, obviously when everyone is coming back the flight there will be empty and it will only be a ferry flight. Sweet fact about these flights, you still get paid as for normal duty (usually).

Emirates A380 at Airport Gate during Bording
Emirates A380 at Airport Gate during Bording

TOD

Top Of Descent. This is one of the most important moments during a flight for cabin crew. This is the estimated time in which the aircraft will start its descent towards the destination airport. This lays out how much time you will have to finish the last meal service and how much time you have to prepare and secure your cabin for landing.

Securing the Cabin

This a task for which you can get into trouble if not done properly. This is when you prepare your cabin for landing by clearing the corridor from any trash make sure all seats are upright, all seatbelts are fastened, all window shades are open and all luggage is safely stowed. If all of this is not done properly and your superior sees it you can be in trouble. It’s a matter of safety, in case of an emergency landing.

ETA

Estimated time of arrival. Not much to explain on this one, this is the estimated time of arrival at the flight’s destination airport. This can vary due to air traffic conditions. For instance you could be put in a holding pattern where the flight waits for its turn to land. On the other hand, the flight might be granted a shortcut through the preceding traffic and land early.

Jumpseat

These are the seats the cabin crew sit on at take off and landing. On each flight crew members will have ownership of the door they are sitting next to it. What this means is that, they will be designated to check that the door is in working condition and they will operate that specific door and performing the arming of the door. Also in case of an emergency they are the designated person to operate the door. You will often see more jumpseats than crew members. This normal as airlines will only carry the minimum crew members needed to operate the flight, to save costs. They will however be full on ULR flights (Ultra Long Range).

Arming Door/Crosschecking

Once pushback starts, and the engines are turned on, you will hear over the PA something like “Cabin Crew Arm Doors and Crosscheck” or “Cabin Prepare Doors For Departure”. This is the cue for them to go to the door and engage the slide system and verify it is properly set. Once this is done if the door is opened the slide will automatically deploy. The crosschecking part is a safety procedure in which crew members check each other’s door. For instance L3 (the 3rd left door) and R3 (the 3rd right door) will check each other’s door to make sure no errors were made.

PA System

The public announcement system. Those phones next to the jumpseat you see are to call other stations on the plane but also to make public announcements. I used to make the public announcements in Italian when travelling to Italian destinations. If you’re shy, get over it or you’ll get stage frights doing this. Once you get the hang of it, it actually becomes fun.

Layover/Turnaround

I’ve talked about these more in detail in this article. However, in a nutshell layovers are the flights were you stay overnight away from your base (the fun ones), turnarounds are ones where you go and come back in the same day (the endless and tiring ones).

Supy

On your first flights for any airline you will be marked with this label: Supy. You are on the flight mainly to get an idea of how everything works, however you will have to work as well. You are not expected to perform like more experienced crew members, so it’s likely you’ll get easier tasks. Now while in this stage you are pray to all kinds of practical jokes from the rest of the crew. It might be as simple as being asked to take a comb to a passenger who has no hair. But I have seen poor Supys counting passengers with a bar code scanner because they were told we didn’t know how many passengers we had on board. Yes, it really happened. Also beware of row 13. Many airlines and aircraft manufacturers don’t include row 13 on their planes, just for superstitious reasons.

UM

Unaccompanied minor. I will not lie, never loved having these in my cabin. There are so many rules when seating an unaccompanied minor on a plane. You need to:

  • To seat them only next to a woman, so you might need to shuffle around passengers.
  • Brief them not to leave the aircraft alone at destination, and then check that they actually do what you told them
  • Always have an eye on them during the duration of the flight

Just it’s a hustle.

INOP

When you see anything tagged as INOP, it simply means it doesn’t work, it’s inoperable.

The Hold

This is where all the luggage that passengers check-in goes in the aircraft. Also any luggage that doesn’t fit the the overhead compartments will be taken down to the hold during the boarding process.

Passenger Manifest

Each cabin will be issued a passenger manifest. This is a list of all passengers in that area, with important information about them. For instance you will be able to see if:

  • They are staff travelling off duty
  • There’s a special meal for them
  • They are a frequent flyer member
  • There are VIPs in your cabin
  • Or just see some strange names

Standby/Reserve

These are two of the most hated words in the Cabin Crew World. Wherever the airline tells you to go with an hour’s notice, you go. On standby, which can be at home or at the airport, you have to be ready and packed with your suitcase to go anywhere on the airline’s network. You might be pulled out for a turnaround or a 6 day trip. Reserve is even worse. Reserve is when you don’t have a schedule at all for a month and you are assigned flights or standby as you move on into the month. In Emirates we used to have a full month of reserve periodically.

SOP

These are the Standard Operating Procedures. When you go through your training you will spend most of your time studying these. It’s all the procedures to follow to do everything safety and security related correctly on the aircraft while on duty.

FL

Flight level, this is the altitude at which the aircraft will be cruising. As a cabin crew this is more informational than anything as flying at 36.000 feet or 40.000 doesn’t really change anything for you. Keep in mind that flight crew will state the flight level in a 3 digit number so for an altitude of 36.000 feet the FL will be 360.

Crop Dusting

I left one of the dirtiest ones at the bottom of the article. Crop dusting is a term used by cabin crew to say that they went into the cabin walking down the aisle releasing some bodily gas (if you know what I mean).

Dinosaur

A dinosaur is a crew member that has been flying for way too long and even looks like it. This will be a very, very senior cabin crew!

Dumping

No, it’s not something that has to do with crop dusting. It has to do with the aircraft’s fuel. In case of an emergency in the first stages of the flight (when not close to the destination), the need to jettison some fuel may arise. This procedure is called fuel dumping. This is needed to reduce the aircraft’s weight so that it’s under it’s maximum allowed landing weight.

Ditching

This is another word you do not want to hear when on a plane. Simply put it means landing the aircraft on water. Never gone through it and never want to.

That’ll be it for my list of cabin crew jargon for today. But if you wonder about any other terms make sure to comment below and I’ll give you an answer.

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