Published On: Wed, May 16th, 2018

Flight secrets revealed: What those codewords and strange sounds really mean | Travel News | Travel


It’s not easy to sleep during a flight, but your attempts to rest are made harder by constant messages from the pilot, instructions from the cabin crew and bells ringing overhead.

Now, flight attendants from Qantas have clarified some of the language they use and revealed exactly what they are doing when they carry out certain procedures, and more importantly, why they are doing them.

The staff of the Australian airline have also explained the chimes you hear regularly throughout a flight.

“Cabin crew, arm doors and cross check”

A pilot commands this of the flight attendants before take-off, just an the plane pushes back from the gate and heads for the runway.

It’s a reassuring phrase to hear as it means a door is ready for use in an emergency evacuation.

Once a door has been armed, if it is opened, the escape slide or raft will automatically deploy and inflate, the crew explained in The Sun.

The attendants arm and disarm the door by moving a special lever, locked with a pin.

“After landing, you’ll hear the pilot ask crew to disarm doors – this means that the emergency slide has been deactivated,” they said.

Doorbell chimes

The Qantas crew noted that there can be up to 30 attendants and pilots spread throughout an aircraft on a long-haul flight, so good communications are crucial.

Hi-lo chime: This is the ringtone of a crew phone from one galley or section to another. “They’re probably asking if there’s more snacks for another part of the cabin,” the staff explained.

Triple lo-lo chime: If you hear this, it’s a priority message from the captain. It could be letting them know there may be turbulence ahead, so crew should start putting away the meal carts and be ready in case the fasten seat belt sign comes on, they said.

Single chime: This is likely to be a passenger asking for service in their seat by pressing their call bell.

“Cabin crew, prepare the cabin for landing”

When you hear this message from the pilot, you know that the plane has started its descent and is preparing for landing.

It’s known behind the scenes as ’top of the drop’. Crew will make sure that everyone is buckled up, tray tables are stowed and all the window shades are up. This is so attendants have visibility in case an emergency occurs during landing.

Pilots also have secret codewords they use in case of an emergency. While not as severe as ‘mayday’, the word ‘pan-pan’ is used for a situation that is still serious but has not yet reached a life-threatening level.

Repeated three times, it originates from the French word “panne”, which means breakdown.

Another airline secret that was recently revealed is how to know in advance if you will be subject to an additional security search before you board your flight – and it depends on whether you are able to print off your boarding pass.

An error message will occur, and passengers will be informed that they will be required to check in at a desk upon arriving at the airport. 

Once passengers have received their boarding pass, the letters, ‘SSSS’ will appear on the ticket. 

The letters stand for Secondary Security Screening Selection, which is an additional level of security organised by the Transportation Security Administration.



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Flight secrets revealed: What those codewords and strange sounds really mean | Travel News | Travel