7 common phrases airplane flight attendants use that no one else understands

You’ve probably heard a lot of slang spoken by the crew on your various business trips, but you’ve never really known what they’re saying. Below is a guide to some of the most popular code words and phrases that flight attendants tend to use.

“I’m deadheading to Chicago.”

When a flight attendant is “deadheading,” they’re on board in case the flight attendants need an extra helping hand, but they sit in their seats dressed like a regular passenger. They may be along to work, or they may just be flying back to their home base, whatever city that might be.

No matter the reason, flight attendants get paid to deadhead. And though you might be curious, don’t try to pick one out of a crowd; it’s almost impossible to tell who’s a deadhead, just as it’s impossible to tell who’s an Air Marshall.

“Cross check, doors-to-arrival!”

One of the most popular things you’ll hear is when the flight attendants gearing up for deplaning, they always use the term “cross-check.” This is when flight attendants check each emergency escape slide to ensure that they’re attached to the plane’s doors, and that they’ve already been disarmed prior to landing. If the slides are armed and the flight attendant opens the doors for deplaning, the slides will deploy and inflate, causing havoc at the gate.

“Cross-check” is usually used before “doors-to-arrival,” but not always. It’s just a signal that flight attendants should switch sections and go check the work of their colleague to ensure that everything is safely done.

“We’ve got a screamer in 34B.”

Whether it’s someone refusing to put on their mask or a child whose iPad connection is lagging, flight attendants never like a screamer, which is what they call an upset passenger.

While entitled passengers demanding extra snacks have always been an issue, as of late, there’s been an epidemic of bad behavior on airplanes. As many as 84% of flight attendants report having to deal with unruly passengers, and of the 3,600 reports filed to the FAA this year, over 65% were due to passengers attempting to skirt the mask mandates.

So if you hear the flight attendant call you a screamer to their colleague, be sure to put your mask back on, lest the flight makes an emergency landing and you get arrested for non-compliance.

“He’s a coach roach, he just loves steerage.”

“Steerage” isn’t just a word that flight attendants use – but it is part of their lexicon. Steerage refers to the seats in the back of the plane that usually cost less than the seats at the front. This can include economy class, which is referred to these days as “basic” fare. A “coach roach” is a flight attendant who just loves to serve that part of the plane.

“Just a reminder, this is a completely full flight.”

You may have boarded a plane feeling frustrated that the flight attendants informed you of a full flight, but you’re seeing dozens of opens seats throughout the aisles. However, when flight attendants say that there’s a “full flight,” they’re just trying to keep the peace.

Flight attendants report that when they inform passengers of potential empty seats, it causes them to ignore the rules, and choose any seat they want rather than sitting in their assigned seats. In order for the flight to take off, the plane has to be balanced in a certain way, which is why seats are assigned in the ways they are.

To keep from a chaotic boarding process and bumpy takeoff, they’re just going to tell you that the flight is full to keep you in the seat you bought – then, when the fasten seatbelt sign is off and the plane is safely in the air, you can move wherever you wish.

“Hold on, I’m going to the blue room.”

This slang term is simple, and used by flight attendants and pilots alike. The “blue room” is just a fancy word for the lavatory, as the deodorizer and sterilizer in the toiler is colored blue. It’s also called the “lav” by some.

“Looks like we got a two-for-one special!”

A two-for-one special might scare the daylights out of passengers, but the crew doesn’t bat an eye. This is when the plane’s rear wheels bounce once upon landing before settling on the ground. It’s called a two-for-one because the back wheels touch the ground twice, so it’s like you’re getting two landings for the price of one!

“Squawk 7500”

A 7500 is the most devastating code word a flight attendant can use – it indicates that either a hijacking is in progress, or one has been threatened. Fortunately, these are extremely rare, especially in the U.S. where the airline pilot is now behind a locked door during flight.

In 1969, a record high of 86 hijackings were recorded by the Aviation Safety Network, but these days, the number is negligible. There’s only been three airline hijackings or attempted hijackings in 2021, most of which occurred overseas. The only domestic incident on a commercial flight, which occurred on a trip from LA to Nashville, was promptly stopped by a brave flight attendant named Christopher Williams before any damage was done.

If you hear a flight attendant say “Squawk 7700,” however, don’t immediately assume that there’s a hijacking. While a 7500 can be dire, a 7700 is to communicate any emergency on a plane, like an ill passenger or inclement weather.

Oftentimes, flight attendants will conduct a check before declaring a 7700, and as a result, pilots then let the air traffic controllers know about this issue so they can use their best judgment, and land the plane safely.