Airline travel lingo explained

Despite over 10 airline companies collapsing this year, the airline travel industry is still growing as passenger air traffic hits a new record. With this many people from so many different backgrounds, you’d think airline companies would make flying easier. Instead, they use travel lingo in all the information they send to their customers, expecting everyone to understand it.

But there are people who are new to traveling and only starting to go flying to see the world. And when booking the flight, one needs to understand why they got cheap flights to avoid any unpleasant surprises later.

And how about you? Do you know everything there is to know about airline travel lingo? If you’re unsure, it’s time to figure it out, because it’s already costing you hard-earned money and precious time!

airline travel lingo explanation
Learning airline travel lingo

Learn airline travel terms to save money

The price of your plane ticket depends on several factors, all implemented by the airlines’ reservations departments. These are meant to formulate airfares and to establish what each passenger gets charged on all their flights. Airline travel lingo plays an important role in the final cost of your flight and only after you understand their terms will you be able to get the best flight deals.

Another advantage of learning airline travel lingo is that you’ll depend less on your local travel agent. And you’ll limit the amount of money you spend on their services once you eliminate airline travel lingo interpretation.

Airline travel lingo explained

Airline travel lingo is the specialized language and terminology used by airlines and the aviation industry. This lingo includes a wide range of terms and abbreviations that are used to communicate information about flights, passengers, and other aspects of air travel. Some examples of airline travel lingo include:

Travel lingo: Types of flights

Connecting flight

Connecting flights take you to your destination via another city. If you have a connecting flight, you will have to change your aircraft on the way. Some airports are difficult to navigate, so make sure you have plenty of time to get to your next flight.

  • Online connections are those where you continue to fly with the same airline company, despite changing aircraft. When your first plane gets a bit delayed, the airline company contacts the aircraft of your second flight to wait for you. For longer delays, they easily handle booking you on their upcoming flight to your final destination.
  • Interline connections are those where you change not only aircraft but also airline companies for your upcoming flight toward the final destination. If your first flight is running late, inform the flight attendants that you have an interline connection. This way, at least they can help you get off the plane faster.

Through service flight

Your aircraft is heading straight to your destination directly and you don’t have any connections. However, when you see through service on your plane ticket, expect your plane to make routine stops on the way to the final destination. During these stops, you are expected to remain on the plane.

Most of the time you won’t even see the stops listed on your plane ticket. So contact your airline company to find out where your plane will be stopping and for how long.

Nonstop flight

Nonstop flights are the ones you should be looking for if you want to get to your destination without any stops. Although they can be more expensive, most travelers prefer them because they save a lot of time.

Open-jaw flights

Nope, that’s not the face we make when we see the ticket price! It’s actually the type of trip where you depart from one city and return from another one. This can drastically affect your plane ticket price, so be careful to check and make sure you understand the meaning of this airline term.

Travel lingo: types of fares

Normal fares

A normal fare means a flight in first class, business class, or economy class. These come without any restrictions like advanced reservation requirements or stipulations regarding the maximum stay. These flights are valid for one year, starting from the date of your first flight. If unused within that timeframe, they can be extended.

Discounted fares / Restricted excursion

These flights are cheaper to acquire because they come with restrictions. Among the most common conditions attached to these cheap plane tickets is airline travel lingo related to required advanced reservations and minimum and sometimes maximum stay requirements. Your travel dates are pre-determined and sometimes you can’t make any changes to your flight. Or, if you can, you are penalized and have to pay an extra fee. The number of seats available with discounted fares is limited to encourage passengers to take advantage of early-bird booking.

More airline travel lingo

Accompanied baggage

Accompanied baggage is the luggage that travels with you on the same plane.


APIS is an acronym for Advance Passenger Information System, the system used by airlines to collect and share passenger information with customs and immigration authorities.


CBP stands for the US Customs and Border Protection. This agency was born in the year 2003 by combining the US Customs Service, the US Immigration Inspection Service, the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service, and the US Border Patrol. Read more about CBP here.


A consolidator is a company that purchases plane tickets from an airline company at a lower rate than the regular tariff. Then, the consolidator resells these tickets to individual passengers or travel companies. As they buy the tickets in bulk from the airlines, they can offer the best flight deals out there. Even better than the airlines’!


A deadhead is an employee of the airline who is off-duty and traveling in a passenger seat. Deadheading is used on a regular basis by airline companies to transport their crews from one city to another, depending on their upcoming assignments.


DHS stands for the Department of Homeland Security. This agency was born in 2003, as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States. The Department of Homeland Security is the parent agency of the CBP.


Dutiable goods are the purchased items for which you may have to pay duties. Specific duty rates are determined by factors like where you got the item, where it was produced, or from which material it was made.


Also called a personal exemption, duty-free is the total value of the goods you can bring back home without having to pay duty.


ETA stands for Estimated Time of Arrival, the expected time that a flight will land.


ETD is short for Estimated Time of Departure, the expected time that a flight will take off.


FFE or Frequent Flyer Program is a rewards program offered by airlines to loyal customers.


GA comes from Gate Agent, the person who checks passengers in and boards the plane.


IFE stands for In-Flight Entertainment. In other words, this can refer to seat video monitors on the seat in front, music channels, wi-fi, maps et cetera.


IROP stands for Irregular Operations. This is a term applied to disrupted flights, including flight delays, cancellations due to poor weather conditions, and equipment changes. If you overhear IROP in relation to your upcoming flight, don’t expect to get there on time. Sorry!


A layover is a flight connection where you have to wait less than 24 hours to get on your next plane. Having a layover shouldn’t increase the final cost of your plane ticket. Not to be confused with a stopover, another airline travel lingo term.


A non-rev or non-revenue passenger is either an employee of the airline or a certified friend/family member traveling on a very cheap plane ticket. Usually offered on a stand-by basis, these flights are for personal travel.  Not to be confused with deadhead, another airline travel lingo term.


PNR means Passenger Name Record, a unique code that identifies a passenger and their booking.


Red-eye is a flight with a departure during the night and an arrival scheduled the following morning. Normally, these flights are those with such time zone differences that they don’t permit a full night’s rest. Avoid exhaustion when you reach your destination and learn how to sleep on a plane.


A stopover is a flight connection where you have to wait more than 24 hours to get on your next flight. Stopovers can even last several days and they can be excellent opportunities to explore more cities on the way. They are usually on flight routes that aren’t available daily or when the airline schedules allow it. Don’t confuse it with a layover, a different airline travel lingo term.


UPG is short for Upgrade, the process of moving from a lower class of service to a higher one.

Airline travel lingo is an essential part of the aviation industry and is used by airlines, airport staff, and passengers to communicate effectively and efficiently.

Now that you understand how the aviation industry communicates to the passengers and how airfares are priced, you are better equipped to prevent airline travel lingo confusion. This can only work to your advantage in finding cheap plane tickets and the best flight itineraries!

About the author

Mirela Letailleur The Travel Bunny

Mirela Letailleur is a Romanian travel blogger living in the South of France. She writes on The Travel Bunny travel blog about affordable travel in Europe, creator of unique free travel guides, local travel expert. Problem solver. Wannabe coffee guru.

Read more about Mirela Letailleur

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