10 Phrases Only Cabin Crew Knows

As a passenger, during a flight, you may hear cabin crew using words that you do not understand or know. It’s time to decipher the language of cabin crew.


ten “Automatic doors and cross-checks”

It is when the aircraft is about to leave the stand that the cabin crew must adjust the door so that the slide automatically deploys if necessary in an emergency. Some airlines use “cabin crew, arm doors” instead. “Doors to manual and cross-check” is said by the lead crew member when the aircraft comes to a pit stop after a flight and the doors are set by the cabin crew to disarm the slide. Cross-checking takes place when each crew member checks that the other’s door is in the correct position. Alternatively, “cabin crew – disarm doors” is used.

9 Positioning

As in “Tomorrow I position myself in Rome” and is identical to “head to head – it means that the cabin crew travels on board an aircraft as a passenger but in uniform and continues to join a flight on which he works.

8 L1, L2, R1, R2

These are the cabin crew stations on the aircraft and at each door and crew station. The larger the aircraft, the more doors and positions there are. Thus, when the intercom rings, the flight personnel do not say their name but say their position. L1 would be the main crew member at the aircraft’s left front door.

seven pax

Cabin crew tend to shorten words a lot – “pax” is what we say instead of passenger. “We have 185 people on board today” or “Pax at 5C, I would like a coffee”.

6 Notch

The cabin crew fetches the “notch” and even has a “notch cart”. It’s garbage or garbage for everyone.

Cabin crew use a lot of terminology as well as their own language. Photo: Singapore Airlines

5 Front, back and toilet

This is how they refer to the front and rear of the plane – so “the rear galley” is the galley (or galley as normal people would say) at the rear of the plane . Lav refers to the toilet, so they could be talking about the “front lav”.

4 Slam-click

If you’re ever called a “slam-click” it means you don’t like socializing after a robbery – hence the noise of the door and the key in the hotel room lock.


Cabin crew tend to talk a lot in airport codes, so when asked where they are heading, they normally state the three-letter IATA code instead of the actual city name.

2 Alpha bravo charlie

Anyone working in aviation knows the aeronautical or phonetic alphabet. It’s really useful for clarifying things, whether it’s a name, a place, or an aircraft registration. How often do cabin crew use it – lima, oscar, tango, sierra!

Flight attendants are most at risk. Photo: Getty Images

1 dairy fairy

This may be unique to one airline or even a few. After meal service on a short-haul flight, cabin crew used to enter the cabin and serve tea and coffee by hand. The third person was the “milk fairy” who brought a tray with extra milk, sugar and stirrers.