Pre-training for Cabin Crew: What you may need to learn

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By on Wednesday 16th Apr, 2014 at 15:10

Some airlines may send you workbooks or an online course to study, a few weeks before your course starts, writes Patricia Green. This will include things like aircraft terminology and airport codes as well as the phonetic alphabet.

This will save some time on your airline training course as well as showing your commitment to the course, so it’s best to study, you may have an exam during your first week! Here are a few brief examples of what you need to learn:

Aircraft terminology

These are basic words and abbreviations that we use every day, so learning some can be a real help – it’s like a whole different language!

AFT – back of cabin
MID – centre of cabin
FWD – forward of cabin
Interphone – for communicating with crew and used for announcements
Galley – where we prepare the meals
Demo – short for safety demonstration
A320 – aircraft type Airbus 320
B737 – aircraft type Boeing 737
CPT – Captain, in charge of the aircraft
FO – First Officer, second in command
SCCM – Senior Cabin Crew Member
Short haul - usually a flight between 1 and 3 hours
Mid haul – A flight between 3 and 5 hours
Long haul – A flight of 5 hours +
Charter – a charter airline primarily deals with passengers travelling for leisure and have most routes during the summer to holiday destinations

These are just a few examples, many more can be found online and may differ from airline to airline.

The 24 hr clock

We work with the 24hr hour clock in aviation, so it is very important to know it and understand it, it is sometimes also known as ‘military time’. Your roster and all briefing sheets/forms will use the 24 hour clock to avoid any confusion! It is also useful to know the terms UTC (co-ordinated universal time), GMT (Greenwich mean time) and ‘Zulu’ time, which are basically all the same thing! They are the ‘time standard’ used worldwide, so you may often hear down-route, for example, ‘’Report tomorrow at 13.00 Zulu’’ – which means if you are in New York, you have to report at 13.00 GMT (UK time, not USA time!)

Airport Codes

Airport codes are very important to understand whilst working as cabin crew, but you will learn them as you go along! These will be used on your roster and briefing sheets too, so it is always useful to learn a few in advance – research the destinations you will be flying to and find their airport code online:

Airport Codes
LHR – London Heathrow
LAX – Los Angeles
AMS – Amsterdam Schipol
CDG – Charles de Gaulle Paris
DXB – Dubai
MCO – Orlando
LGW – London Gatwick

Phonetic Alphabet

English is the official language of aviation and is used worldwide. As some of the letters sound similar, the phonetic alphabet was introduced to make spoken language clearer. You will be surprised how much you use it!

A Alpha
B Bravo
C Charlie
D Delta
E Echo
F Foxtrot
G Golf
H Hotel…. Etc…

Chain of Command

The ‘Chain of Command’ is crucial for each cabin crew member. The purpose of this is to secure the safety of the aircraft and all passengers and crew onboard as well as the efficient management of the airline operation. The Pilot/Captain has complete control of the aircraft and his order or command must be adhered to.
Captain/Pilot in Command – First Officer/Co-pilot – Senior Cabin Crew Member- Cabin Crew Member

I hope that this has given you a few pointers as to your pre-training course and will help you on the start of your new career path. Not all airlines send pre-training courses but many do to help prepare you for training as there is so much information to take in.

Please note that these are guidelines only, the actual terms used by your new airline may be different!

About the author:

Patricia Green has been Cabin Crew for major airlines in the UK and Middle East for seven years and also an SCCM. She has also worked as a VIP Flight Attendant working for very high profile clients and world leaders on their private jets. Last year Patricia moved to flying on a freelance basis in order to concentrate on working as a freelance instructor as well as setting up as a Cabin Crew Consultant. She advises potential crew how to get their dream job and helps experienced crew move from commercial to corporate flying. In response to many requests from fellow crew and students, Patricia has written a series of E-books to help guide new crew with lots of insider advice and useful hints and tips.

For more information please visit

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Photo: Thomas Cook/Deeside College