Flight Attendants Have a Secret Language You Didn't Know About

It's all hidden in the way they speak.

Airline flight attendants have secret language
Photo: Getty Images

You've probably noticed that flight attendants use a certain vocabulary when they talk to each other in flight. Certain words like "red eye" or "dead head" might be fairly well known amongst seasoned travelers, but there are a few words that you might not be familiar with. For those who are unaware, "red eye" refers to flights that are overnight, and "dead head" is an airline employee who is on board a flight, but is off duty. Mystery solved.

After learning these terms, you may be intrigued to know more about the secret language flight attendants use to communicate. Well, in truth, they're really just using a short-hand language that other flight attendants are familiar with to get the job done as efficiently as possible. In some cases, these terms allow flight attendants to communicate about some of the less-glamorous aspects of their job without troubling passengers. Some of these terms have very practical uses while others are more of a private joke among people who work in the "friendly skies."

Here are a few terms that flight attendants use to talk to each other while they're in the air. Next time you hear these words, you can be proud that you're officially in the know.

Galley and Galley Queen

The galley is essentially the airplane kitchen. This is where flight attendants prepare meals and beverages, and set up other services for the cabin, according to Airportag. A "galley queen" is a slang term for a flight attendant who is particularly territorial over this area and does not like other people intruding in this space, the HuffPost reported.

Jump Seat

According to BBC, the jump seat is a special, smaller seat that flight attendants use during take-off, landing, and turbulence. It automatically folds up, or "jumps" when the flight attendant stands up, hence the name.

Spinners and Runners

These terms are used to identify a seasoned flyer's least favorite passengers, according to BBC. A spinner is a passenger who arrives at the last minute without a seat assignment, so they are told to board the plane and look for a seat. They usually just stand in the aisle looking around, or "spinning." Runners are passengers who are late or are coming from another flight, so they're found running through the airport to catch the flight.

Miracle Flight

This may be a little mean-spirited, but "miracle flight" is a term used for a passenger who needs the assistance of a wheelchair to board the flight but "miraculously" does not require it to deplane. Allegedly, some passengers abuse the system by using a wheelchair to get on a plane early.


This is the wall that divides the aircraft. It's usually before the first row and is also where you can often find the lavatories and galley. If you've got your eye on this space for the extra legroom, it's now common practice for airlines to offer this as an upgrade.


What are all those dings you hear throughout your flight? Flight attendants call them the chimes. They can vary in tone and can mean many different things — for example, if a passenger presses the service button, the pilot calls, or if there's an emergency.

Pink Eye

Don't worry, it's not what you think. A pink eye is a flight that's slightly earlier than a red eye: late at night, but not overnight, according to Matador Network. This flight usually doesn't land much later than midnight.

Crotch Watch

This is what it's called when a flight attendant is in charge of checking for seat belts, according to the HuffPost. You can help them out by making sure your seatbelt is visible and not hidden under a blanket or another item in your lap.


This happens during arrival or departure, according to BBC. When you hear this, it means flight attendants must double-check aircraft doors to ensure they are armed and ready in the event of an evacuation.

Lips and Tips

This term refers to a flight attendant who's wearing matching lipstick and nail lacquer, according to Matador Network. It's a subtle reminder that even in the middle of a stressful day of flying, they have to look proper and polished.

Crew Base

This is the city where the crew start and finish their shifts. Every airline has a hub (or multiple hubs), where they head their operations. If you hear a flight attendant talking about heading back to base, it probably means they are heading home.


Not all flight attendants may live near their base though, which means they might have to fly there in order to get their shift started. These flight attendants are known as commuters because they have to commute by flying from the airport closest to their home to their base before they can start their shift.

Crash Pad

If a flight attendant is a commuter, they might have a backup plan for days when they're not able to get a flight back home in time to sleep. Commuters may share apartments known as crash pads whenever they want to avoid paying for a hotel room. According to Mental Floss, this could mean sharing with up to 20 people or more in what essentially functions like a hostel with bunks and people coming and going.

Blue Room

In official announcements, flight attendants usually refer to the bathroom as "the lavatory," but amongst themselves, it's also known as the blue room because of the blue liquid you see in the toilet. In case you've ever wondered, airplane vacuum toilets use this blue stuff, a.k.a SkyKem or "toilet deodorant," in the place of water because it's much lighter and it can kill odors and disinfect at the same time.


To get everyone where they need to go, airlines sometimes have to organize rough schedules. One of the worst shifts to work, according to the blog Shelley in the Skies, is the "turn." This is when a trip goes to one place and back in a single day, without any layover time for the crew.

Wide Body and Narrow Body

No, they're not talking about the passengers — this terminology refers to the size of the plane. A narrow body is your standard short-haul airplane, with just one aisle going down the center and a wide body airplane has two aisles, typically what you'll get when you've got a long flight going overseas.

Two-for-One Special

For people with a fear of flying, landing is often the scariest part. It's understandable to feel an anxiety spike when the airplane bounces, but for flight attendants, this is just another day. It even has a name, according to the website Dauntless Jaunter — the two-for-one special. Pilots do this intentionally when the runway seems slippery because it helps them gain traction.

Holding Pen

Why is that somehow those short minutes between "This flight is now boarding." and when your group number is actually called can feel like an eternity? At this moment, everyone usually stands up to get in the appropriate line, milling about with a general buzz of anxiety until they are finally allowed to walk through the gate. That's probably why flight attendants call the gate area the holding pen because you do feel like a sheep waiting for your cue to move.

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