Airline Terms and Phrases

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Airline Lingo

Use this handy glossary of airline, travel and aviation terms to look up any terms or phrases that you may not know.

Airline Glossary

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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.

A

Add-on

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.

Agent

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

Aircraft

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

Airport

Is where 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.

API

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.

App

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.

ATC

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

B

Baggage

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.

C

Cabin

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.

Carrier

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.

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.

Check-in

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.

Classes

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

A 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.

Connecting Flight

A 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. 

Currency

The type of money that a country uses to trade in. At Alternative Airlines, we accept booking of flights in 70 different currencies to suit you.

D

Departure Area

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

Direct Flight

A 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.

E

ETA

Estimated Time of Arrival is the time that a 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.

F

Flight

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.

G

Gates

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

H

Hangar

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

Hold Baggage

See checked baggage above.

I

IATA

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.

Inbound

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.

Interline

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).

L

Landing

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

Layover

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

LCC

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.

M

Muliti-city

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.

N

Non-stop Flight

A 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.

Non-transferable

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

O

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.

Outbound

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.

P

Pilot

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

R

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.

Runway

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

S

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.

Stopover

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.

Stow

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.

T

Take-off

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.

Terminal

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.

Tower

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 informaiton on what they are and how to book one with Alternative Airlines, read on here.

U

Unaccompanied Minor

An unaccompanied minor is a child who is not escorted by a adult. Generally, children under 12 can not travel unaccompanied, and each airline have different rules regarding minors travelling alone, with some even providing escort services at a fee. It is important to check the individual airline’s policy regarding unaccompanied minors, as some airlines raise the age to 14 or different and some airlines will charge a considerable amount more than others for an escort service.