Photo: Dmitry Birin/Shutterstock

Your Flight Attendants Have a Secret Language. Here's What They're Saying.

by Blissom Booblé Mar 9, 2015

Senior Mama

An affectionate term used to describe veteran flight attendants. As a newbie, I had heard horror stories about flying with the Senior Mamas. When I discovered I’d be flying with Blanche, the no-nonsense veteran who never smiled, I was scared. But I listened and asked questions. By the end of the trip, I knew not only how to perfect my drink cart, but also how to cook rice in the coffee pot. “Here,” she handed me the strange utensil at the end of our last flight, “you’ll never need another piece of silverware in the air again.” And I haven’t. I’ve used my spork: a half spoon, half fork combo on every flight.

Pink Eye

No, I’m not breaking out my medical kit to cure your conjunctivitis. If a red eye is a long overnight flight, a pink eye is any flight just short of that. For the purposes of the airlines, a red eye is a flight that touches the 1 a.m. hour, so a flight that goes into midnight, but narrowly escapes the next hour could be defined as a pink eye.

Victory Lap

After a 3 or 4 day trip flying to several different cities, flight attendants will often get stuck flying back to their base airport, but still be required to do a quick turn to a city close to home before finishing. Sometimes called a “turn and burn” because there is no time to clean, rearrange, or refuel the aircraft due to the short timeframe.

Lips and tips

A reference to a flight attendant’s matching fingernails and lipstick. Used as a gentle reminder that despite 12 hours days, 5 hours of sleep, meals grabbed during 30 minute layovers and eaten standing up, drunken passengers, medical emergencies involving bodily fluids, and hauling around enough supplies to maneuver a small army, we flight attendants should aim to be flawless at all times.


If your flight attendant seems cranky, a flip-flop could be the culprit. And no, it doesn’t involve the beach vacation. The term refers to a flight attendant’s schedule when she flies one red eye arriving in the early morning hours, has the day on layover to sleep, and then must report for the first flight out the following morning around 5 or 6 a.m. It is the equivalent of forcing a night owl into a morning person’s schedule overnight.


“How was LA?” “How was New York?” My friends ask me often. I wouldn’t know; I only had a turn. In other words, I high-tailed it to some fabulous city, didn’t get off the plane, and flew right back to my base airport. It is as glamorous as it sounds!

Hot room

Otherwise known as on premise reserve, standby reserve, and “the couch,” but most accurately described as hell. The hot room at the airport is where they stick reserve flight attendants for a block of time so the airline can use them at will.

If you’ve got a delayed flight and your flight attendant rolls in late, chances are she was just pulled from “the couch” five minutes prior to cover the position. And she will be prepared to go to China or Africa with no prep time.


As a former English teacher, hearing this made-up word is more grating than the call bell ding. People don’t de-car or de-train, yet we are now deplaning passengers in droves. While the term disembark is sufficient, I’ve given in and started using the current lingo. So, when you hear deplane, it just means it’s time to remove yourself from the aircraft. Quickly, please!


The two sisters sat in the front row of first class when I noticed the small, red gift bag at their feet. “I’m sorry, ladies, but you are seated in the bulkhead and I’ll have to put that gift bag in the overhead compartment,” I said pointing to the lack of under the seat storage. The sister at the window willingly handed over the merchandise. “This is heavier than it looks,” I commented. “It’s our mother,” the one in the aisle giggled, “and we are giving her the Weekend at Bernie’s trip.” I shut the bag in the overhead as my face turned the same shade as the bag. The moral: Not even your dearly departed gets a free ride in the bulkhead during take off and landing.


“Where are their parents?” a passenger steamed about the 6-year-old triplet boys who couldn’t keep their hands off the call button. “Right now that would be the flight attendants,” I explained, “they are UMs traveling alone.” Unaccompanied minors can travel as young as 4 years old. On flights with multiple UMs, you may find us bribing them with M&Ms if they promise to nap.


Just when we hear the landing gear come down and think we’re free for the rest of the day, we may get hit with a tagged flight to another destination. As a new flight attendant, I once had a turn to Dallas in January. Simple. The weather was warm so I didn’t bring a coat. Unfortunately, I was tagged onto a trip to Omaha and then Calgary. Snowing in both locales, I was forced to borrow a pilot’s coat just to get to my layover hotel.


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