Inflight English

As I write this article I am sitting on an airplane flying from Beijing, China to Chicago, USA. The food sucks and I’m a bit sleepy, but the adventures ahead give me energy. I’ve been away form America for the past four years, so you might be able to imagine my excitement, and slight nervousness.

This seems like the perfect time to teach you some common words / phrases used on airplanes. These are very important to know, especially if you ever plan to travel to a place where they speak only English on the plane. Did I say plane? Actually the more appropriate word is ‘flight’. When we are talking about a single plane trip from one place to another, we use the word flight. The plane is the thing, the object.

Flight Attendant or Cabin Crew

The flight attendant is the person who serves you food and drinks on the flight, and helps you with whatever you need. The old word for this is stewardess, because all ‘servers’ on flights used to be females. Now however, ‘flight attendant’ is used to fit both males and females. The flight I am currently on has about 3 male flight attendants, and 4 female flight attendants.

The staff on an airplane are also called the Cabin Crew. The cabin is the inside of the airplane where all of the passengers sit. A crew is a group of people who work on a ship. So, the crew in the cabin of the airplane are naturally called cabin crew.


Inflight is an adjective used before anything that happens on the flight. It’s very simple. Here are some ‘inflight’ things:

-The inflight service was excellent, though the food was awful.

-The inflight movie selection was pretty good.

-On my way to Chicago, I had a really good inflight breakfast.

Overhead Storage Compartment (stow)

I think you can guess this one from the name. The place in the plane directly over the seats where you put all your carry-on luggage is called ‘overhead storage’. The verb for putting your bag in that place is ‘stow’. Stow basically means, ‘to put away’. Here are a couple of examples (notice the use of ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’)

-‘Sir, can you please stow your bag in the overhead compartment before takeoff?’

-If your bag doesn’t fit under the seat, you’ll have to stow it.

Well, obviously those are many more things to learn about flying, but those other things will have to wait until another post. It’s time for breakfast.

(This flight has wifi, but it’s $17 dollars. Holy crap, that’s expensive).