English for Flight Attendants: 60+ Words and Phrases

As a flight attendant, you get to travel all over the world and meet people from various countries—many of them English speakers.

In order to communicate with these passengers, you will need to know some key words and phrases. 

In this post, you will learn over 60 English terms that you can use on airplanes and in airports to succeed at your job.

By reviewing these terms, you will feel more comfortable and confident in your English skills wherever you go.


Navigating the Airport

This is the essential vocabulary you need to know about the airport:

  • airline — An airline is a company that owns airplanes. Some examples are American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Emirates.
  • airfare — Airfare is the price of a plane ticket.
  • flights — A flight is a trip made on an airplane between two places.
  • layover — A layover is when passengers must get off one plane and get on another plane in order to reach their final destination. Layovers can be just minutes, hours or even days!
  • terminal — A terminal is a large building where passengers get on and off flights. Large airports may have multiple terminals, often labeled with letters. Small airports only have one terminal.
  • gate — The gate is where passengers sit and wait to board their flight. Every flight leaves from a gate, and they are usually numbered. The gate is also where the flight attendants will check passengers’ documents and help them get on the plane.
  • runway / tarmac — The place where planes take off, land and travel to and from the gates. This surface is typically made of asphalt or concrete.
  • arrivals — Arrivals are flights that are arriving at the airport. There is an arrivals board  that shows which flights are arriving and at what times.
  • departures — Departures are flights that are leaving the airport. There is a departures board (usually right next to the arrivals board) that shows which flights are leaving and at what times. 
  • on time — When a plane is on time, it will arrive or depart at the scheduled (planned) time.
  • delayed — When a flight is delayed, it will take longer to arrive or depart than planned.
  • canceled — Canceled flights are flights that are not going to happen. Passengers will need to find different flights to their destinations. Canceled flights usually appear in red on the arrivals and departures boards, so that passengers can easily see them.
  • check-in — Check-in is where passengers must show their travel documents (such as passports and visas) to airline employees. The airline employees will make sure they have the right documents to travel, and they will prepare the passengers’ suitcases to be put on the plane.
  • boarding — A flight is boarding when passengers are getting on the airplane.
  • lost and found  When people lose items in the airport, they may be brought to the lost and found. People can then go there to find an item that they lost.
  • luggage storage / baggage storage — Travelers may want to leave their suitcases somewhere so that they can exit the airport. This is common when passengers have long layovers and want to see the city they are waiting in until their next flight leaves.

These are the most important words for the airport. You can find more vocabulary related to airports and flights here.

Getting On Board

A very important part of being a flight attendant is helping passengers get onto the airplane. Here is some important vocabulary about tickets, seating and helping passengers board the plane.

  • rows — A row is a line of seats that goes from one side of the plane to the other. These rows are numbered, starting with row 1 at the front of the plane. Passengers usually must board the plane by group number, which is based on the row where they will be sitting. 
  • window seats  — Window seats are located next to the plane’s windows, on the sides of the plane. The window seats on the left side of the plane are labeled with the letter A. The next column of seats is labeled B, then C and so on. 
  • aisle seats  — The aisle is the hallway where people can walk from the front to the back of the plane. Aisle seats are the seats closest to the aisle.
  • exit row  — The exit row is the row of seats near the emergency exit. You will need to make sure that strong, healthy people sit in these rows so that if there is an emergency, they can open the emergency exit door. Elderly people and children should not sit in this row.
  • standard  — Standard seats are normal seats that have no restrictions or special services (such as extra space).
  • bulkhead  — Bulkhead seats offer more leg room  (extra space where passengers can stretch out their legs and be more comfortable). There are not many of these seats on a plane.

Types of tickets

  • First Class — The first rows of the plane are First Class seats, which are usually bigger and more comfortable with more space between rows. First Class passengers may receive special services while on the flight and get to board the plane first. For these reasons, First Class seats are more expensive.
  • Business Class — Seats in Business Class have fewer special services and benefits than First Class, but they are better than economy seating (see below for definition). Business Class seats are usually a little less expensive than First Class seats.
  • Economy Class — Economy Class seating is where most passengers will sit. These tickets are less expensive than First and Business Class. This is also known as coach seating

Knowing the Plane

During your flight attendant training, you will be tested on your understanding of planes and their parts. You will also need to be able to communicate with airline and airport employees who may use technical vocabulary to talk about the plane.

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Here are some key words to learn:

  • jetbridge / jetway  This is a movable bridge that looks like a long hallway. It connects an airplane to the terminal and allows passengers and airline employees to board the plane. Other names for it include skybridge , airbridge and boarding bridge
  • airstairs  These are mobile (movable) stairs that connect the airplane doors to the runway. When you board and deboard a plane using airstairs instead of a jetbridge, you will sometimes take a shuttle  (a small bus) between the terminal and the plane so you do not have to walk on the runway.
  • fuselage — This is the main part of the airplane, where passengers sit and where luggage/baggage is stored.
  • passenger cabin — This is the section of the airplane where all the passengers sit.
  • cockpit — This is where the pilot  (the person flying the plane) and the co-pilot (someone who assists the pilot) sit and control the plane. Passengers are never allowed in the cockpit.
  • freight hold / cargo hold — This is where all the luggage/baggage is stored for the passengers.
  • overhead compartment/bin — This is the place on the plane where passengers store their carry-on luggage and other personal items during the flight. Flight attendants usually assist by closing the overhead compartments once they are full. 

Air traffic control

Air traffic controllers are the people at the airport who give pilots instructions for take-off, flight and landing. They work in the radio control tower and ensure the safe and efficient movement of aircraft in the airspace.

While communicating with air traffic control is the pilot’s job, on rare occasions you may need to understand and communicate with them. This means you will need to know the special, technical language that is used by air traffic control known as the NATO Phonetic Alphabet .

This alphabet is used to spell out important words on a radio so that nobody misunderstands or miscommunicates. You can practice listening to air traffic control at international airports here.

Giving Safety Instructions

When all the passengers are on the airplane, you will need to welcome them and give them safety instructions. You can practice saying these instructions by watching videos from airlines, such as this in-flight safety announcement from the popular airline Delta:

Here is a great example of an in-flight safety announcement that you can practice reading out loud. Start by reading it slowly, and then increase your speed once you feel more confident. Compare yourself to the voice reading the Delta announcement to check your speed and pronunciation.

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You can find a library of short videos on FluentU for more practice.

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Serving Passengers

While it is not your only job, you will need to serve passengers on the flight. You will provide them with food, drinks and other items and services for comfort and safety. 

Food and drinks

  • beverage — Another word for a drink. This could include water, coffee, tea, juice, soda/soft drinks or alcoholic beverages (usually available for an additional cost). 
  • complimentary — Complimentary means that something is free, or that passengers do not have to pay for it. Most airlines offer complimentary beverages and snacks on their flights, and some offer complimentary meals on longer flights. 
  • specialty meals — Usually passengers will be able to choose from two kinds of food for their meal on the flight. Sometimes they will need a specialty meal. These are meals prepared for passengers with unique diets. Be sure that you know exactly who needs specialty meals.
  • vegetarian — This is a specialty meal for people who do not eat any meat, including beef, pork, chicken, fish and other seafood.
  • vegan — This is a specialty meal for people who do not eat any meat or other animal products. This means that they do not eat milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, eggs, honey or anything else that is produced by an animal.
  • kosher — This is a specialty meal for Jewish people who follow rules about their diets. Kosher food is prepared in a special way, and certain foods are not allowed.
  • allergies — Some passengers may have allergies (bad reactions) to certain foods, such as peanuts, milk, gluten or seafood. If a passenger tells you that they have an allergy, be very sure that you do not give them a meal with that ingredient. 


There are a few items that are often given to passengers to help them feel more comfortable while traveling. Here are some items that you may distribute or be asked for: 

  • in-flight entertainment — This used to be a movie that was played for all passengers, but nowadays it is more often a collection of movies, TV shows and games that they can choose from on the screen in front of their seat. 
  • blanket and pillow — It is common for flight attendants to give passengers these items on overnight flights so they can sleep more comfortably. 
  • slippers — On long overnight flights, especially between different continents, you may give passengers slippers so they can take off their shoes and keep their feet warm and comfortable during the flight. 
  • headphones — Flight attendants often pass out headphones to those who want them so they can listen to the in-flight entertainment.
  • wet towel — A wet towel usually comes in a small package and allows passengers to clean their hands without going to the bathroom. 

Documents and information

When flying internationally, passengers will need to go through customs and immigration .

You will need to distribute important customs and immigration documents to passengers before the plane lands, and you may need to give instructions about how to fill out the documents.

Make sure you are familiar with these documents. Passengers may ask you questions about these documents, so you should learn how to fill them out.

Keeping Order on the Plane

Your primary role as a flight attendant is to keep people calm and keep things organized while making sure that everybody stays safe and healthy. 

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You may need to give passengers updates if you are going to experience:

  • route changes — When the path or direction of a journey is altered or modified.
  • delays — When the flight does not happen as planned and is postponed or takes longer than expected.
  • bad weather — When the weather conditions are unfavorable, such as heavy rain, strong winds or storms.
  • turbulence — The bumpy or shaky movement experienced during a flight due to irregular air currents or atmospheric disturbances.

You will also need to make sure that people follow the rules and policies of the airline. Here are some things that you might need to say to passengers to keep them safe:

Flying can be a stressful experience for some people. If passengers are scared, angry, nervous or upset, you must try to keep them calm. Use these phrases to let passengers know that you want to help:

Handling Medical Emergencies

While emergencies do not happen often, you always need to be prepared. If one of the passengers is having a medical emergency, you may need to ask them one of the following questions:

Practicing English Pronunciation

At the gate and on the plane, you may need to use a microphone to give instructions to the passengers. Giving these instructions requires a well-rounded vocabulary and proper pronunciation.

It is very important that you speak slowly and clearly and use a great English accent. You should practice pronouncing:

  • English letters — Letters are important when talking about seating and terminals, and you may need to spell a passenger’s name out loud. 
  • English numbers — You will need to tell people when they can board the plan based on their row or group number. You may also need to resolve issues when people are in the wrong row or seat. 

You will also sometimes have to call out the names of passengers. Here are some resources to help you learn how to pronounce common English names:

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  • You can use this website to look up the pronunciation of any name.


As a flight attendant, you have tons of opportunities to meet new people and practice your English.

Keep reviewing and practicing these key terms, and you will feel more confident in your ability to communicate with English speakers, no matter where you are in the world! 

And One More Thing...

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