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What’s a Coach Roach? Inside a Flight Attendant’s Dictionary


Anyone who flies knows that us airline people seem to have our own language, to the point that I often don’t even realize I’m using terms that aren’t obvious to everyone else. Even my dear friends sometimes ask, “Wait, what does that mean again?” I’ve been told some of you might say that when reading my column. So I’m here to fix that — plus throw some in just for fun. Please, if I’ve left something off, let me know!

“All clear” When you hear this it means the crew can visit the lav. No one is getting the random drug and alcohol test.

Bidding This is the monthly process of telling the airline what you’d like for your next work schedule — a competition based on seniority.

The airline either prints whole schedules in advance, which you then rank in order of preference, or you give the company a (complicated!) list of priorities (e.g. night flights, 767 trips, specific days off, etc.) around which the computer builds a schedule. Factoid: some foreign airlines just randomly assign trips, full stop. Madness!

DeadheadEverybody loves this one, but few use it correctly. It means flying as a passenger — as a company assignment. Basically, the airline needs you to be somewhere other than where you are, and you cannot or are not needed to work the flight. Best guess is it’s an old theater term.

Layover – Just want to clarify that for us this means to overnight/sleep somewhere. Time at the airport between flights is “sit time.”

Hours – When we talk about “hours,” we mean time we’re actually getting paid for. When you hear that full-time is 80 hours per month, don’t be fooled! Remember, we only get paid when the airplane is moving. A London trip from NYC is three days long but worth under 15 hours.

Furlough – When airlines need to shrink, most don’t “lay off,” they “furlough.” If the business bounces back within a certain amount of time, the airline has to offer you your job back before they can hire new stews or pilots off the street. That’s pretty great. Well, relative to forever losing your job, of course.

Pax – Passengers.

Slam-Click(er) – When a crew member goes to the hotel and does not emerge again until it’s time to leave. As in: slamming the door and clicking the lock. End of story. Can be used as a noun or a verb. (“I’m so tired I’m just gonna slam-click.” or “You won’t see her for dinner. She’s a slam-clicker.”)

You’ll mostly hear these from flight attendants:

Airplane Mode The option on your electronic devices that will stop them from transmitting data or calls. (Hint: If you’re still texting or talking, you’re doing it wrong.)

Baby JesusA baby on board with (probably first-time) parents who are very, shall we say…particular. They will likely expect the entire flight to revolve around their child. It’s a handy heads up: “We got Baby Jesus in row 27 tonight.”

Coach RoachUsed wryly, usually for flight attendants who prefer working in the Main/Coach Cabin. “Business? No thanks. I’m a Coach Roach all the way, baby!”

Off – As in, turning your devices all the way “off,” vs. the word “stand-by”. (Term becoming antiquated.)

Trip Trader – This is someone hired to help rearrange your work schedule. Usually they are current or retired flight crew. It is a “real” business — you need a license to do this. How in the world they can manage 100 different people’s schedule requests is beyond me!

Terms you’ll hear from the cockpit:

Apron – Similar to “ramp.” It means an area of the tarmac, but one not used for take off and landing (i.e. where planes park or get serviced).

Blue Juice – The blue water in the toilets. Not to be confused with your bonus term, Crew Juice, a special cocktail to be enjoyed on the van ride to a long layover hotel, usually as a sort of sleep-aid after an all night flight. Recipes vary and may be subject to competitive secrecy.

Terms I’ve never used, but I’m told exist:

Crotch Watch – Nickname for walking through the cabin to do a seatbelt check. Also called a “Groin Scan.

Landing Lips – To put on “landing lips” is to refresh one’s make-up at the end of a flight.

Slip time – Another term for an overnight layover (thanks to @brindabella24 for that one).

Working the village – working in Coach.

Fun fact: I also have a term of my own. Bin Gagging – As I first mentioned here, this is when passengers leave their bags hanging halfway out of a bin for some mysterious reason. They hoist it up, then just walk away like “mission accomplished!” and wait for us to find it.

There are plenty more terms I could share (another time!), but I have a challenge for you: find me a crew-worthy term for the passengers, during boarding, that won’t just step into their row already! The best I’ve got is Aisle Zombies, but I’m pretty sure you can do better. Prove me right, and I promise to spread your term throughout the kingdom* my flights!

*I do not call my collection of flights “the kingdom.” I mean. Psssht. That would be, like, such a weird thing to do…

[Photo: iStock]

Comments are Closed.
SSteegar December 11, 2014

Indelaware - thanks for the additional info/clarification. I knew that "ramp" originated with seaplanes, but I wasn't aware that US pilots use "ramp" vs "apron" differently than other pilots. US pilots also use "tarmac" (as do I). Follow-up: What do UK airlines call the American equivalent of "rampers"?

Frizzy December 11, 2014

Tree stumps

Fragola December 11, 2014

Lane Loafers!

Indelaware December 10, 2014

Actually there is a difference between apron and ramp. The apron is "“A defined area on an airport intended to accommodate aircraft for purposes of loading or unloading passengers or cargo, refueling, parking, or maintenance.” Ramps are technically only found at seaplane bases - the ramp runs from the water to the land parking area. Only in the US aviators say "ramp" when they actually mean "apron." In the UK, they may say "tarmac."

UrbaneGent December 10, 2014

You forgot the best one "CROP DUSTING" : F/As who pass gas while walking down the aisle.