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Airline Terms and Phrases

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Airline Glossary

There is so much lingo and jargon in the airline and aviation industry that you are left feeling confused when facing a word you may be unfamiliar with.

We have compiled a list of words and abbreviations which are common in this industry, paired with an explanation of their meaning for you to look up and refer to.



Add-ons are optional extras that you can purchase at an additional fee when booking a flight. This could be things like additional baggage or seat upgrades.


An agent, or in travel terms a ‘travel agent’, is a retailer of holidays or flights such as Alternative Airlines.


Is a flying vehicle. Can include aeroplanes/airplanes, helicopters and airships.


Is where aircraft stay, or park, when not in flight. It is where they take-off and land from.

Airport Code

A code given to each unique airport. They are three digits in length. For example, LAX for Los Angeles International Airport.


Advance Passenger Information is information about the travellers including date of birth, travel document details (passport) and nationality. It is required by some airlines, agents or countries before travelling.


Short for application, is a piece of software which is downloaded to a smartphone or tablet. In terms of travel and airlines, some airlines have their own app in which you can check booking and flight details or check-in online.

Arrival Area

Within an airport, an arrival area is the area of the airport designated to incoming airplanes and their passengers. This is also known simply as Arrivals.


Is an acronym for Air Traffic Control and refers to the staff that work at ground level to manage the aircraft in airspace.



Any type of luggage, including bags and suitcases that is taken on the airplane. See below for checked baggage and hold baggage to see the difference between them. The amount of baggage, whether checked or hold, will vary depending on the airline you are flying with. This can be found on your travel itinerary, or by checking with the airline you have chosen.

Baggage Area

Or baggage reclaim, is an area in airports dedicated to deal with checked baggage. These often have moving belts where checked baggage is placed by staff and rotated around so that passengers can collect their baggage.

Base Fare

This is the lowest price and most basic part of a ticket before any add-ons, taxes or extra charges have been added.

Boarding Pass

A ticket issued to the traveller after checking in, either online or in person at the airport. It has traveller information, seat number and flight information on it.



The section of the aeroplane in which passengers travel. In bigger planes this is often split into areas of classes, with business and first at the front and economy at the back of the cabin.


The company responsible for transportation of people or cargo. In terms of aviation, this is the airline.

Carry-on Baggage

The bags that you are allowed to carry on to the plane with you. There are restrictions in what you can take in this baggage with you, such as liquids or weapons, but be sure to check the airline that you are flying with to see their policy on this. There are also often restrictions in the amount or size of carry-on baggage that you are allowed, so be sure to check this too. It is also known as hand baggage. Read about the difference between carry-on baggage and a personal item here.

Ceased Operations

When an airline has to terminate all of its flights and stop running as a business. This is usually due to the airline going bust after financial troubles, but can also be for other reasons, such as being banned by aviation authorities.

Checked Baggage

Also known as hold baggage, is baggage that goes in the hold of an aircraft throughout the duration of a flight, so is not able to be accessed during the flight.


The process of confirming your presence on a flight. Online check-in is much more common now and is recommended by us due to saving money and time, however, most airlines will still offer checking in at the airport with airline staff.


The section of the cabin that you sit in. Each have different features and prices, with first and business class often offering comfier seats and more legroom in exchange for a higher price. Although names may differ between airlines, there are typically 3 types of classes on a plane; first class, business class and economy class.

Codeshare Flight

codeshare flight is a flight which is operated by another airline than the one you purchased with, whilst sharing the same flight number. For example, you buy a flight on airline X's website, which is operated by airline Y. The flight will be on airline Y's plane, and you will usually check-in with airline Y. These are different to Interline flights, despite often being confused for each other.

Combi Aircraft

combi aircraft is a specific type of aircraft that can carry passengers and cargo, either at the same time or separately.

Commuter Flight

commuter flight is a particular type of short-haul flight that people use to commute from home to work.

Connecting Flight

connecting flight is a flight itinerary which takes at least one stop between the original destination and final destination. For example, it could go from New York -> Istanbul -> Mauritius rather than a non-stop flight which would go from New York direct to Mauritius. Each flight would have a different flight numbers or it would be classed as a direct flight. For more information on connecting flights, please visit our connecting flights page.


The type of money that a country uses to trade in. At Alternative Airlines, we accept bookings of flights in 7over 160 different currencies to suit you.


Departure Area

Also simply known as departures, is an area within an airport which is designated to outbound flights and leaving passengers.

Direct Flight

direct flight is a flight between two places that doesn’t change flight numbers. This means that it could have an intermediate stop so isn’t non-stop as you may think, but doesn’t require any change of aircraft for the passenger.

Domestic Flight

Or internal flight, is a flight which takes off and lands within the same country. For example when flying in the USA from New York to Miami.


Retail outlets found in the international zone of airports that are exempt from national taxes and duties, known as duty-free shops.



Estimated Time of Arrival is the time that an airplane is expected to arrive at its destination.

Excess Baggage

Luggage which has been checked-in but is bigger or heavier than the airlines baggage allowance. Paying for excess baggage is often very costly, so be sure to check the airline allowances before travelling and checking that you comply.


Fare Families

Fare families are the different categories of travel options that are included within the price of your ticket when you purchase a flight.

Flexible Flights

Flexible flights are flights that allow a passenger to change the date and time of the flight before departure, per the airline's rules.


The act of flying from one destination to another. See Domestic Flights and International Flights to see different types.

Flight Attendant

Or cabin crew, are members of staff who ensure the safety of passengers whilst often providing a service for them.



The area where passengers wait in the airport before boarding the plane.



A hangar is a large garage where airplanes are stored, maintained and repaired when not in use.

Hold Baggage

See checked baggage above.

Hybrid Airline

hybrid airline is an airline that operates with a low-cost model but provides a service that is more similar to a full-service carrier.



Stands for the International Air Transport Association, which is a trading association which sets standards worldwide for safety, sustainability, security and efficiency. At Alternative Airlines, we are an IATA accredited agent.


An inbound flight is a flight which is coming in to the airport, or coming in to a destination.

Indirect Flights

Indirect flights - A indirect flight is a flight which goes via at least one other destination between origin and final destination. The traveller will often have to leave the plane at this middle destination.

Intercontinental Flights

An intercontinental flight is a flight that flies from one continent to another.


Interlining is where travellers use multiple different airline companies to reach their final destination. Sometimes there is a formal agreement between different airline carriers to streamline a connection, such as baggage transfer or joint ticketing. However, it can also be due to the traveller booking separately, and so they are responsible for their own luggage and connections.

International Flight

A flight in which the country that a plane takes off from is different to the country in which it lands in. For example, when flying from Atlanta, Georgia (USA) to Sao Paulo (Brazil).



Is the final part of a flight journey, where it returns to ground level on the runway.


Similar to a stopover, where there is a break between connecting flights, but lasts less than 24 hours. For more information on short layovers, please visit our guide to short layovers.


A low-cost carrier (LCC), or low cost airline is a airline which is run at lower and discounted rates and fares. They aim to provide a standard seated ticket, with extras such as baggage at extra fees. An example of a LCC in the USA is Southwest Airlines.

Long Haul Flight

Refers to a flights of a certain length. Some airlines define a long haul flight by time, typically ranging from 6-12 hours, with other airlines who categorise by journey distance length, for example Air France who define long haul as intercontinental flights.

Low Season

Also known as off-peak season, is the less populated time to visit a destination. Often months where children are at school, or weather is worse. It is often cheaper to book flights in this off-peak season. Check out the low season months for many destinations here.


Medium Haul Flight

medium-haul flight is a direct or non-stop flight that last between 3–6 hours.


Multi-city, multi-hop or multi-leg flights are where travellers break up their journey by stopping off at different destinations along the way. Visit our page on multi-city itineraries to see how to book one with Alternative Airlines.


Narrow body aircraft

narrow body aircraft is a type of plane that is narrow in width.

Name change

name change is the process of changing the name on your flight ticket.

No-fly zones

No-fly zones are areas of the world where airlines are not allowed to fly over.

No show

no show is when a passenger, usually purposely, doesn't show up for their flight.

Non-stop Flight

non-stop flight is a direct flight which has no stops en route between start and end destination. They are different from direct flights which is where a flight number doesn’t change from start to end, but may have a stop in the middle.


A type of ticket which is only intended for one particular passenger. It can not be transferred to another person.


Online Check-in

The process of confirming your attendance on a flight which is done online by the traveller. This can be done by most airlines, and is beneficial as in-person check-in often incurs charges by some airlines.

Open Jaw Flights

Open Jaw flights are separate flights that go from an original destination to a second destination, with the second flight going from a third destination to the original first destination. It is then up to you to decide how you travel from the second destination to the third destination. Read our page on open jaw flights to see how you can book them with Alternative Airlines.


An outbound flight is a flight which is leaving or departing the airport or destination.

Overhead Bins

The area of the plane cabin located over the seats for storing luggage.


Personal item

A small piece of baggage that passengers can bring onto their flight with them, usually alongside their carry-on baggage. This baggage is typically a laptop bag, purse or small backpack.

Here's the difference between a personal item and carry-on baggage.


The person in charge of flying a plane. They sit in the cockpit of the front of a plane, often with a co-pilot.


Revenge Travel

Revenge travel is a term coined to describe the high demand for travel after the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic disrupted a lot of travel plans for a lot of people. For a lot of people, the best way to get revenge is to get back to what they love doing — traveling.

Red-eye Flight

A type of flight categorised by the time that it flies. They usually take off late in the evening, after 9pm, and land early in the morning, typically before 6am. The term ‘red-eye’ comes from the concept that it people can’t always sleep on planes, and these fly when people usually sleep, resulting in red and tired eyes. Read more about what red-eye flights are and how to buy them with alternative airlines here.


Part of the airport which is designated to planes take-off and landing activities, characterised by it's long strip of concrete.


Short-haul Flight

Is based on the distance of a flight length. American Airlines class short-haul flights as anything less than 3,000km, whereas Air Berlin base this on categories of locations, defining short-haul as anything from Germany to the rest of Europe or Northern Africa.


This is the break between two connected flights which usually lasts more than 24 hours. It is usually planned to break up a long, tiresome journey. Read this blog to find out how to plan the perfect stopover.


Means securing you baggage in either the overhead bins or under your seat securely during flight, especially during takeoff and landing.

Surface Sector

Is the same as open-jaw flights. Refers to having a section of travelling on the surface as opposed to the air, by any means chosen. For example, they may fly from Brasilia to Mumbai, then travel on the surface of the earth to Kathmandu, and then fly back to Brasilia.



The part of the flight at the beginning of its journey. The plane goes from stationary to airbourne after a high-speed period on the runway.

Tarmac Delays

tarmac delay is a delay in a flight after the passengers have boarded the aircraft. This is usually because the plane cannot take-off on schedule or after the plane has landed but the passengers are not allowed to disembark the aircraft.


An airport terminal is a building where passengers arrive to get on and off aircraft amongst other things such as checking in, dropping off or picking up luggage, and go through security. In some larger airports, there are more than one terminal so be sure to check on your booking reference or check-in details to know which terminal you have to go to, however, there is often transport provided between terminals. For example, JFK in New York have 8 terminals, each designated to a particular airline or group or airlines.


The location in the airport in which the ATC staff overlook and observe the runway and hangars to control airplanes.

Transatlantic Flights

A flight which travels from one side of the transatlantic ocean to another. For more information on what they are and how to book one with Alternative Airlines, read on here.

Transcontinental flight

transcontinental flight is a flight that flies from one side of a continent to another.

Transferable Airline Ticket

transferable airline ticket is a type of airline ticket that can be transferred to and used by another person if the person's whose name was originally on the ticket can no longer take the flight.