4 little airline jargon words that have important meanings

Little airline jargon words mean a lot when it comes to being on time or making a connection — “out” is not “off,” and “on” is not “in.”

airline jargon“Out,” “off,” “on,” and “in” are high on the airline jargon list. These small airline jargon words refer to what actually is happening with a plane. For travelers making connections or planning anything after a flight, even simply an airport pickup, these small airline jargon words can be critical.

In my experience, sometimes phone representatives use some of these airline jargon terms interchangeably. Even websites aren’t always clear. So, when a traveler looks online or talks to an airline representative or travel agent and begins to hear airline jargon, pay attention to these four little words — out, off, on, and in.

You are being secretly taxed at airports“Out” refers to when an airline leaves the gate — doors closed, cellphones off and all that.

In theory, when a plane is “out,” devices should be in airplane mode. For those checking on if someone’s flight has left on time, seeing or hearing “out” might be cause for relaxation.

But “out” can mean anywhere from a few feet from the gate to “out” on the tarmac near the runways. Plus, a plane can be “out” for a very long time during periods of bad weather or air traffic congestion. Usually, planes take off within half an hour. However, during weather delays, I’ve personally sat for more than an hour and have clients who’ve been stranded for longer.

One of the worst things about being “out” is that unless flight attendants tell passengers they can turn phones on, or people just sneak and do it anyway, there’s no way to communicate the delay. And, in-flight Wi-Fi generally doesn’t work on the ground.

“Off” refers to taking off.

The plane is now actually in the air. Generally, once a plane is “off,” it’s easier to determine the actual arrival time, barring unforeseen events. The closer “out” time is to “off” time, the more chance the plane will be on time.

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Click here to subscribe“On” means wheels touching down on the tarmac.

At this point, passengers can use their cell phones (okay, some cheat a few minutes before landing). Passengers can advise friends, colleagues, and anyone picking them up that they have landed.

While “on” is also good, meaning an aircraft has reached its arrival city, it can be a very misleading airline jargon word. It doesn’t mean actual arrival, especially if there are gate issues. While I don’t have statistics, my experience, and that of clients, indicates that landing means it still may be 20-30 minutes before the plane actually pulls up “at the gate.”

There are several problems here besides the annoyance of sitting on a plane longer than necessary. It makes pickups difficult — this summer, I waited almost an hour in an airport hotel parking lot for my son while he reported the pilot’s ever-increasing frustration in their gate quest. But, it’s also quite possible to miss a connection despite technically being at the airport an hour in advance. This happened to several people on my flight during a connection through Denver because, according to airline jargon, “on” is not “in.”

“In” means the plane has arrived at the gate. 

That’s a good thing. Now, there are still those moments when the door gets stuck, but — to end on a positive note — I won’t mention that.

These airline jargon words seem small, but they can mean a lot to airline passengers. Their interpretation to the uninitiated and airline-jargon-impaired traveler can make a trip smooth and easy, or a hassle. Remember — out is not off, and on is not in.