10 Code Words Airline Pilots Say, and What They Really Mean

Photo Credit: Flickr

Flying is a mysterious event…for the regular passenger anyway. We may look completely at ease with our neck pillows snugged in place and our Kindles fired up, but everyone knows we’re one small incident away from panic.

I always feel my sense of hearing is heightened. I can hear conversations around me, someone’s video game three rows back or flight attendants taking drink orders ten rows up.

I also hear those voices crackling over the sound system uttering words that make no sense, but seem to be important—otherwise, why say them? What do these words mean?


Hey, our lives are in their hands. We have rights!

Luckily, it’s not really a secret language at all. Pilot Patrick Smith is an author and a blogger, and on his blog, AskThePilot, Smith posted a list of code words and their meanings.

Scroll through these ten, so you can be in-the-know the next time you fly.

1. Last minute paperwork

Code for: We’ll leave in about half an hour. Last minute paperwork is finalizing any changes to the flight plan, waiting for maintenance to do their write-ups and logging or something similar. It typically points to a delay.

Photo Credit: Pxhere

2. Area of weather

Code for: thunderstorm. Area of weather means heavy precipitation—usually over the city you’re going to.

Photo Credit: Flickr

3. Air pocket

Code for: turbulence. It’s going to get bumpy for a bit.

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4. Equipment

Code for: airplane. If there’s a “change of equipment,” grab your stuff. You’re going on another plane.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

5. Direct flight

Code for: Your routing will retain the same flight number from departure to arrival. It has nothing to do with how many stops you make.

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6. Non-stop

Code for: The plane will not make any stops between the departure city and the arrival city.

7. Gatehouse

Code for: gate or boarding area. Gatehouse sounds cooler.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

8. Ticketed and confirmed passengers

Code for: passengers. If you hear “all ticketed and confirmed passengers are invited to board at this time,” get your ass on the plane. They are talking to you.

Photo Credit: Pxhere

9. In range

Code for: your plane has called in and the gatehouse agents said they are arriving soon. Call it twenty minutes or so.

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10. Ramp

Code for: all the space around a plane parked at the gate. There’s not an actual ramp out there.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

11. “Doors to arrival and crosscheck.”

This announcement made by flight attendants as the plane is approaching the gate, is to verify that the emergency escape slides attached to each door have been disarmed, otherwise the slide will deploy automatically as soon as the door is opened.

You are probably wondering at this point, why airline people don’t speak like the rest of us.

And if they talk like that at home? Hm…

Just something to think about “at this present time”—which is code for now, if you didn’t already know.