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The Secret Codes That Airlines Don’t Want You to Know

Airplane with passengers on seats waiting to take off  | Listen closely and you might hear some of these. | AwaylGl/iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve ever flown on a plane before, chances are you’ve noticed that pilots and flight crew speak to each other a little differently than they do on the ground. There’s a very good reason for this.

Amanda Pleva, flight attendant and author of the Crewed Talk column on, says: “Codes are used by crew in order to maintain calm and order in the cabin. We’re specially trained in emergency situations and panic can cause us to lose control of a situation and end up in injury or death.”

Imagine if everyone on the flight knew of a potentially dangerous situation. Even a minor incident could passengers to freak out for no good reason. Basically, it’s better if you don’t know.

But in case you’re curious about what all that codespeak actually means, we’ve rounded up some of the most common phrases flight crews use to communicate information to one another. Just don’t tell your seatmate what it really means, OK?

1. 7500

You never want to hear this code come over the intercom. It means that the plane has been hijacked, or that hijacking is imminent.

Next: Stay on high alert for this next code word.

2. Code Adam

This is one you’re just as likely to hear on planes as you are in stores or other public venues. Code Adam, which references an incident where a 6-year-old was abducted from a department store in 1981, means that there’s a missing child.

Cute little boy traveling by an airplane
Cute little boy traveling by an airplane | This references a missing child. | SbytovaMN/iStock/Getty Images

Next: The next code is just a diversion.

3. Code Bravo

Flight crew and passengers on board
Flight crew and passengers on board | This is designed to distract passengers. | pcruciatti/iStock/Getty Images

While codes are usually used to avoid causing panic, Code Bravo does the exact opposite. The flight crew uses this phrase to distract passengers from the actual danger so that they can take care of a situation without interference.

Next: It may be juice, but that doesn’t mean you should drink it.

4. Blue juice

Nope, it’s not Gatorade. Blue juice refers to the toilet water on the plane.

Occupied bathroom sign
Occupied bathroom sign | Nothing good can come from hearing this code. | frontpoint/iStock/Getty Images

Next: This one’s for napping.


5. Slam-click

Stewardess talking to passenger
Stewardess talking to passenger | They need their rest too. | Ruben Ramos/iStock/Getty Images

This refers to when a crew member goes to a hotel to rest between shifts. So your flight attendant might say to her colleague, “I’m so tired, I’m going to slam-click.”

Next: It’s literally waiting in line … for a plane.


6. The sin bin

United airlines airplane in the newark airport.
United airlines airplane in the newark airport. | Not a fun place to be. | Muratani/iStock/Getty Images

Las Vegas? Not exactly.

The sin bin is an area where a plane waits for takeoff when the runway is too crowded.

Next: Prepare for a delay when you hear this phrase.


7. Last-minute paperwork

Happy young woman is sitting in the airplane, feel headache
Happy young woman is sitting in the airplane, feel headache | You’ll be there for a while. | RyanKing999/iStock/Getty Images

Anytime you hear the pilot talking about paperwork, you should go ahead and get comfortable. This means that there’s a change in the flight plan, an issue with the weight-and-balance record, or that the maintenance staff needs to adjust the plane’s logbook. No matter what the concern, it’s unlikely that you’ll get to take off on time.

Next: Don’t be rude, or you’ll suffer this form of retribution.


8. Cropdusting

Couple talking on an airplane
Couple talking on an airplane | You might catch a whiff of something not so nice. | DigitalVision/iStock/Getty Images

This means exactly what you think it means.

 Just because your flight attendants go out of their way to be nice to rude passengers, it doesn’t mean they can’t get revenge. Cropdusting is the act of passing gas as you walk by another person. It’s used by flight attendants to get back at rude customers. Avoid becoming a victim — be polite!

Next: Missing this procedure could prove disastrous.


9. Crosscheck

emergency exit door in airplane
Emergency exit door in airplane | That would be a pain to put back if they forget. | Artfoliophoto/iStock/Getty Images

A senior cabin crew member says this to indicate that the emergency slides which are attached to each door have been deactivated. Skipping this step would make the slides deploy as soon as the door was opened.

Next: This is a  flight attendant’s conference call.


10. All-call

Woman flight attendant
Woman flight attendant | They’re having a quick conference call. | DigitalVision/iStock/Getty Images

Pilot Patrick Smith says this is part of the door arming or disarming procedure. “This is a request that each flight attendant report via intercom from his or her station — a sort of flight attendant conference call,” he writes on his website.

Next: When you hear this, it means there’s too much traffic.


11. Ground stop

Evening traffic at airport
Evening traffic at airport | Things are a little too busy. | Xavier Marchand/iStock/Getty Images

This is when air traffic is so extensive that departures to certain destinations are delayed by air traffic controllers.

Next: This is what pilots call the plane.


12. Equipment

United airlines airplane in the newark airport
United Airlines airplane in the Newark airport | It seems to be a little more than just equipment. | Muratani/iStock/Getty Images

This literally means the plane. Smith wonders on his blog: “Is there not something strange about the refusal to call the focal object of the entire industry by its real name?”

Next: A word for flight attendants who aren’t on the clock.


13. Deadhead

man passenger in airplane using mobile smart device with headphones
man passenger in airplane using mobile smart device with headphones | This time they can relax and take advantage of their flight perks. | Genaro_Melendrez /iStcok/Getty Images

No, it’s not a flight attendant who loves listening to the Grateful Dead.

deadhead is a pilot or flight attendant who’s traveling on the plane but isn’t working the flight.

Next: This word means it’s going to get bumpy.


14. Air pocket

Airplane wing in sky & clouds
Airplane wing in sky & clouds: It might get a bit bumpy. | WeatherlyHammond/iStocik/Getty Images

This is a nicer way of referring to turbulence. So if you hear talk of brief “air pockets,” hold onto your drink and get ready for a bit of a bumpy ride.

Next: You’ll sometimes hear this on your way to Europe.


15. Tracks

These are frequently flown routes. | Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images

These are the very popular routes between Europe and North America.


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