Jargon on the Fly: Flight Attendant Terminology

flight attendant terminology

Did you know flight attendants have a secret language? We speak in coded terms and use lots of acronyms.

Whether you are a new hire feeling a bit lost in the conversations going on around you, or someone who just wants to be nosy and decipher what your flight attendants are gossiping about in the galley, we have put together this vocabulary guide to help you out!

Keep in mind, some of these terms are official and standard across the industry, and others are very much unofficial and are more like slang that we use to communicate parts of our day-to-day experience with one another. To help you identify the difference, I’ve separated the vocabulary lists.

Official Flight Attendant Terminology

These terms and acronyms are used pretty much across the airline industry to help describe specific aspects of our job.

FA = Flight Attendant.
“There are 5 FAs aboard captain.”

SOPs = Standard Operating Procedures.
“Remember the SOPs for responding to an inflight emergency!”

FO = First Officer. (Co-pilot).
“The FO has asked for his meal.”

CM = Cabin Manager.
“The CM is very by the book, so make sure to follow your SOPs.”

PC = Pilot in command.
“Hey everyone, the PC is going to treat us all to a round of drinks at happy hour!”

PAX = Passenger. Used on official documents and spoken communication.
“The PAX in seat 26A has asked for another customs form.”

Duty Period = A single day’s worth of flights. A shift, basically.

“Today we have a 13-hour duty period.”

Trip = A specific scheduled assignment from start to finish (usually with multiple duty periods).

“I have a trip that leaves Monday and gets back on Wednesday.”

Leg = A single flight.

“This is the last leg of the trip before I get to go home!”

Layover = the “time off” given to crew member during multi-day trips. Usually used to refer to the place that break will take place at.

“What are you doing on the layover tonight?”

Deadhead = A flight crews take as a passenger to transit from one location to another, while on duty.

“I have to deadhead from New York to Chicago, and then work a flight to LA.”

Pairing (or Sequence) = A specific combination of flights that make up a single “trip” over the course of several days.

“This pairing is badly constructed! We have to work three legs on our last day, but only one on the first!”

Reserve = a period of time during which a flight attendant must be “on call” and available to the airline at a moment’s notice.

“I have a reserve month in December.”

For more on reserve check out our post about it: What Is It Like Being On Reserve for Flight Attendants

Line = a pre-determined schedule.

“I have a line in May.”

PSU = Passenger Service Unit. The thing above each seat on the airplane that has a reading light, flight attendant call button, and air vent. These units also house the oxygen masks, but those hopefully won’t be visible to you on your flight.

“Hey, the PSU at row 34 has a reading light that is broken.”

Turn/Turnaround = A set of flights in which a crew operates the flight to one destination and then turns around and flies right back to where they came from (usually their home base).

“We start the trip with a Tampa turn before heading off to Chicago.”

IROP = Irregular Operations. When shit hits the fan and the airline melts down, often leaving passengers and crew stranded places.

“Hurricane Sandy really caused us all to be stuck in an IROP situation.”

Senior Mama = A term of respect given to flight attendants with high seniority.

“She’s a senior mama, she can hold any trip she wants!”

LODO = Language of Destination. A flight attendant who speaks a foreign language.

“Oh, I fly to Germany all the time! I’m a German LODO.”

Red Eye = A flight at takes off one day and lands the next day (usually a night flight).

“The LA red eye was quiet last night, everyone just slept.”

ODAN = On duty all night. A special type of turn where the crew operates the last flight to a specific destination, gets about 5 hours in a hotel, and then operates the first flight back to base. Because legal rest doesn’t happen, the trip is considered a single duty period.

“I didn’t get a nap this afternoon, tonight’s Detroit ODAN is going to be brutal.”

Non-rev: Someone who is flying on non-revenue airline benefits.

“The non-rev sitting at 14A is so sweet! She brought us little hand sanitizers!”

For more on non-revs read our article: Non-Rev Travel 101: A Beginner’s Guide

Metal = an aircraft.

“What type of metal do you fly?”

Recurrent = The annual/bi-annual training program flight attendants have to complete to maintain their licenses.

Recurrent this year was easy, they don’t even make us do a ditching drill!”

Flight Attendant Slang

Flight attendants have some creative ways of communicating certain things to one another in coded language. Here is the real inside scoop!

5 Star = A “5 star” flight attendant provides amazing service. A “5 star” passenger requires amazing service.

“Ugh, the guy in 3A is a real 5 star.”

IFB/G = Inflight boyfriend/girlfriend. Someone the flight attendant finds attractive.

“The guy in 12E, totally my IFB!”

Glory Lap = A turn tacked onto the end of a paring, on the very last day of the trip.

“We have to do a Dallas glory lap before we can go home!”

Susan = A not very nice senior-mama.

“Oh, I flew with her, she is such a Susan. She even asked me how I got the trip!”


We hope this vocabulary list helped to shed some light onto the secret language of flight attendants.

Of course, there are many, many more acronyms and terms that we use, both officially and unofficially, but I can’t go sharing all of our secrets, now, can I?

Similar Posts:

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top