The airline business is like nothing on earth, and airline people are some of the most common interactions we consultants have. I thought I would take a minute to note some of the crazy words that come out of their mouths.
Note that I'm not talking about jargon - every field has special weird words for weird things. I'm talking about weird words for common things that didn't need renaming.
Weigh in in the comments if you've got more to add!
- Aircraft - This is one of the most common words to escape from the lips of airline people. I counted it at least three dozen times in the safety video alone! But no one outside the airline industry says aircraft. To us normals, it's an airplane, a jet, or most likely just a plane.
- Approach - No one is ever asked to "come over", "line up" or "step up". No, at airports you approach people and things, implying that you'll never get there. And at airports, sometimes it seems like you never will! Can you imagine if this odd wording was adopted by society as a whole? Would you approach the counter at Burger King, a professor's office, or your own bed?
- Beverage Service - "Welcome to Olive Garden! Your waitress will be here shortly with the beverage service!" Never gonna happen.
- Nautical terms - "Ahoy there, matey! Welcome aboard the pirate ship, Southwest Airlines Flight 123! I be the captain and this be my crew!" I suppose this one is debatable, since crew is used to describe the staff of any vessel (in the air, on the water, under the sea, or even in space) but it's such an odd historical link between ocean liners and aircraft (there I go). Why didn't they adopt rail terminology instead? Wouldn't it be cool to have a conductor and an engineer on an air-coach?
- Fly (as a verb) - This is pretty widely adopted in society as a whole, but it's another oddity. I have often been thanked for "flying Delta", but I'm pretty sure I didn't actually do any of the flying. I just got on board to eat peanuts and drink beer with the other passengers. Why not just call it travel? But that's not quite as sexy as flying, is it?
- Onboarding and Deplaning - You aren't just getting on a plane, or even boarding, now you're "onboarding the aircraft!" Talk about needless doublespeak! And yet I've never heard anyone refer to offboarding. No, that's deplaning! But let's stick to onboarding for a minute: Isn't it fun that this pretentious, obnoxious word is shared by the loathed corporate critters in HR?
- Operations - Another ridiculously common term inside aviation that has little meaning out in the real world is operations. The only normals who need to learn this term are us frequent fliers, since irregular operations (abbreviated IrrOps) is such a common occurrence.
- Rollerboards - This is so common it's becoming a real word! I have to assume the adjectival phrase "roll-aboard" (as in luggage) became a noun before the eggcorn effect took hold. Now they're rollerboards, which sounds like a questionable interrogation tactic! But they're still too big for commuter jets.
- Passive Voice - In a world full of rules, it pays to be passive. "That needs to be turned off" deflects obvious questions better than "I have no idea why I'm demanding that you turn off your computer, but I think some law says that you have to." Airline personnel have mastered passive voice!
- Podium - For some reason, that thing the gate agent stands behind isn't a counter (that's where the ticketing agent stands), a desk, a table, or a lectern (the proper term) but a podium. Even though they're never raised off the ground. Oh well.
- Product - MBA-ization comes to the airline industry! The act of flying your corpse to Des Moines is now referred to as "the product", as is (presumably) carrying the mail and the literal corpses in the cargo hold. Which is humorous, since the actual profitable product is pushing branded credit cards.
Photo by MarkNye