Flight Attendants Use Secret Lights Around the Plane to Communicate — Here's How It Works

The orange light is coming from the bathroom.

Lights illuminate the economy class cabin of an Airbus A350 XWB aircraft Inside a Japan Airlines Co.
Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Managing hundreds of passengers on a plane is no easy task. It's just the flight attendant's job to make it look that way. They have to know absolutely everything about safety aboard the aircraft —and even know quite a bit about each passenger (before travelers even board the plane).

To make it easier, they have their own secret language to get through each and every flight. And they also send secret signals to each other using one piece of equipment that's hidden in plain sight.

What looks like an exit sign to the normal passenger is, in fact, a normal exit sign. But on the lower edge of the sign is what's known as the "Area Call Panel" or ACP, Mateusz Maszczynski, an international flight attendant, revealed on Paddle Your Own Kanoo.

If you pay attention on your next flight, you'll notice lights on the panel that let flight attendants know when their attention is needed throughout the aircraft.

If a blue light appears on the ACP, it means that a passenger has pressed the call button at their seat. (Sometimes the ACP has two blue lights to let a flight attendant know which side of the aisle the passenger is seated.)

An orange or amber light lets flight attendants know that something is happening in the lavatory. A steady orange light means that someone in the lavatory has pressed the call button. If the light is flashing, it means that the smoke detector has been activated. A light outside the bathroom in question will also light up to let flight attendants know where to go.

And finally, a pink light is how flight attendants signal to each other that there is a phone call to answer. A steady pink light means that it's a one-way call, but a flashing pink light means that it's a group call and every flight attendant station should join in. Sometimes a red light on the ACP may signal a call from the flight deck.

For all of these light signals, a chime will ring out and let flight attendants know to check the ACP nearest them.

Although these light codes are fairly universal, there can be slight changes and modifications to the lights, based on aircraft manufacturer.

Sure, you could try to impress the cabin crew on your next flight by revealing that you know exactly how to read their secret exit sign code. Or, you could just follow these simple tricks to let flight attendants know you appreciate all their hard work.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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