Flight lingo: what cabin crew really mean when they say…

Cabin crew
3 min read

If you have ever been on a plane and felt the cabin crew have their own secret language or speak in code, chances are you are not alone, and you aren’t wrong.

There’s a mix of euphemisms, slang and mysterious jargon spoken onboard an aircraft.

The Association of Southern African Travel Agents defines some of the less apparent words and terms you might overhear on your next flight.


It’s a word that everyone that has ever flown heard just before take-off and just means that flight attendants have checked each other’s work in different stations. This could include testing the overhead storage bins are secure, for example, or that the emergency escape slides on the doors have been armed or disarmed.

Delft Blue houses

Delft blue house

Those who have travelled in a KLM World Business cabin might be familiar with the airline’s little ceramic houses filled with gin.

Interesting to know, however, is that the tradition started in the 1950s. Until 1994, KLM gave these out on an ad hoc basis. As of 1994, a new house is introduced each new year, on October 7, which is also the anniversary KLM started back in 1919.

Aside from the novelty factor, these little keepsakes are sought after by collectors.

Double upgrade


Let’s just call this one your ultimate lucky day but truth be told, it rarely happens.

As the phrase suggests, you would get to the airport with an economy ticket and find yourself upgraded to business class. Ultimately, you would get upgraded to first class and receive a ‘double upgrade’.

Hidden city ticketing/throwaway ticketing

Air ticket

What is a hidden city and, unless you have an excellent excuse, you wouldn’t actually throw away a ticket? Right?

Consider this. You want to fly from City A to City B, but the cheapest flight is still above your budget. You then see a special, ultra-cheap fare with a stop-over on the route. The practice of booking this longer, cheaper flight and then disembarking in City B is called hidden city ticketing. A similar practice is throwaway ticketing, in which you buy a cheaper round-trip fare and only fly one way.

Operational upgrade (Op-Up):

operational upgrade

An unexpected, exciting and free seat upgrade, which happens when the economy section is overbooked, and a passenger is moved up to first class. Be prepared, elite-status flyers are usually upgraded over other passengers.

Passenger shaming


A term made famous by a former flight attendant’s Instagram account, passenger shaming refers to passengers who commit some form of faux pas. Typical offences include taking off shoes, sticking their feet into another passengers’ space but has also involved a passenger doing yoga in the aisle and someone else who clipped their fingernails during the flight. Read more on the topic here.



… Are people who race through the airport to make it to their gate before it closes.



A spinner is flight attendant speak for a passenger who frantically looks for an empty seat.


Crew members are referring to special cargo onboard which consists of human remains…



Remember the part about the double upgrade? Well, these are the folk who will probably get picked. Super-elite have achieved top status in an airline loyalty programme, usually reserved for the highest spenders.