Air travel can be chaotic, confusing, and stressful - especially if you don’t understand the language! In airports and on airplanes throughout the world, English is often used as the first or second language. Memorizing some simple vocabulary can help you to feel comfortable and confident when you’re travelling. Today, I’ll walk you through the vocabulary that you’ll need to navigate air travel, from start to finish.

Checking In

  • Departures - the part of the airport where you check in and planes leave from
    • Example: This morning, the taxi driver dropped me off at departures, and I went to check in for my flight.
  • Airline - the company that you’re flying with
    • Example: My favorite airline to fly with is Southwest. I think that they have excellent customer service.
  • Check in - to register at the airport, check your bags, and get your boarding pass
    • Example: It’s important to check in at least two hours before an international flight.
  • Check in counter - the specific place where you check in
    • Example: Go to check in counter 23 to complete your check in with Delta Airlines.
  • Luggage/Baggage - the things that you bring with you when you travel, this includes your hand luggage and checked luggage
    • Example: He always travels with a lot of luggage. He often has at least three bags!
  • Bags - suitcases, duffel bags, or backpacks that you’re traveling with
    • Example: How many bags will you be checking today? When you’re ready, please place your bags on the scale.
  • Checked bag - the bag that you check in
    • Example: Most international flights allow two complimentary checked bags.
  • Carry-on bag (Carry-on) - the bag that you bring with you on the plane, often a backpack, a small suitcase or a duffel
    • Example: It’s important that your carry-on bag isn’t too big! If it is, some airlines will make you check it.
  • Personal item - this usually refers to a small bag or purse that you can also bring with you on the plane
    • Example: When I fly, I usually bring a carry-on and my favorite purse, which is my personal item. I like to travel light, so I almost never check a bag!
  • Hand luggage - the luggage that you bring with you onto the plane, includes your carry on and your personal item
    • Example: Some airlines have a weight limit for hand luggage, so don’t pack too much in your carry-on!
  • Luggage Tag - something you put on your bag with your personal information to identify that it belongs to you
    • Example: Most airlines require that you put a luggage tag on your bag before you check it.
  • Fragile - an item with a higher possibility of breaking
    • Example: Travelling with wine makes me nervous because it would be a disaster if the bottles broke. I always tell them to put a fragile sticker on my bag, and I hope for the best!


  • Identification (ID) - a document that has identifying information, usually your driver’s license or passport
    • Example: Good morning, sir! I need to see your ID, please.
  • Liquids - something that isn’t solid, such as shampoo, water, or lotion
    • Example: In the United States, there’s a limit for how much liquid you can bring on a plane. Usually, you need to put all of your liquids in a special bag.
  • Remove - to move by lifting or taking off or away
    • Example: Please remove your shoes before going through the security scanner.
  • Take out - to remove something, in this context from your bag
    • Example: Please take out your laptop and all liquids before putting your bag through.
  • Take off - to remove, often used in the context of clothes
    • Example: Please take off your belt, jacket, and any heavy jewelry when you go through security.

Before Boarding

  • Terminal - the part of the airport where people get on or off planes
    • Example: Major international airports often have at least two terminals. It’s always important to know which terminal you’re flying out of!
  • Gate - the specific section of the terminal where your plane is departing from
    • Example: Flight 766 to Orlando has been moved from Gate A6 to Gate C7. Please move to Gate C7.
  • Boarding pass - your ticket to board the plane
    • Example: We’ll be boarding in five minutes. Please have your boarding pass and identification ready.
  • Boarding time - the time when passengers get on the plane
    • Example: The boarding time for my flight is 7:15 AM. I’m definitely going to get to my gate by 6:55 AM, just to be safe.
  • On time - when your flight departs at the scheduled time
    • Example: We’re on schedule for an on time departure! We might even arrive to our destination a little bit early.
  • Delayed - when your flight departs later than the scheduled time
    • Example: Her flight home was delayed, and she had to wait in the airport for five hours.
  • Layover - when you have to stop somewhere and take another plane, also called a stopover
    • Example: I had a five hour layover in London on my way to India.

On the Plane

  • Board - to get on the plane
    • Example: Flight 752 to Los Angeles will be boarding in 15 minutes.
  • First class - the most expensive and luxurious seats
    • Example: I’ve never flown first class before, but I’d love to! They have more comfortable seats and excellent service.
  • Business class - the section of the plane where business travellers often sit, more expensive than economy class.
    • Example: She has to travel frequently for her work, so her company always pays for her to fly business class.
  • Economy class - the most affordable seats on the plane where the majority of passengers sit
    • Example: I don’t mind sitting in economy class, but it’s true that the seats are smaller, and there’s less leg room.
  • Window seat - the seat closest to the window
    • Example: The window seat is the best because you can see the amazing scenery outside of the plane. You can also lean against the side of the plane to sleep!
  • Aisle - a passage between sections of seats
    • Example: It’s really important to keep your feet out of the aisle so that the flight attendants can easily move throughout the plane.
  • Aisle seat - the seat closest to the aisle
    • Example: An aisle seat is great during a long flight because you can get up and use the bathroom whenever you want!
  • Middle seat - the seat in between the aisle seat and the window seat
    • Example: The middle seat is definitely the worst seat because there’s very little space.
  • Pilot - the person who flies the plane
    • Example: She’s been a pilot for 10 years. She starting flying commercial planes, but now she flies passenger planes.
  • Passenger(s) - the people on a plane
    • Example: Sometimes, really big flights can have hundreds of passengers.
  • Flight attendant - the people who serve food and beverages and take care of passengers on a plane
    • Example: Flight attendants have to be very patient, especially on long flights. It’s not easy to make everybody on a plane happy!
  • Take off - when the plane leaves the ground and the flight begins
    • Example: Fasten your seatbelts and prepare for take off!
  • Land (landing) - when the plane returns to the ground and the flight ends
    • Example: We will be landing in Santiago in 20 minutes. At this time, please return to your seats.


  • Arrivals - the part of the airport where passengers arrive and go to baggage claim and customs and immigration
    • Example: Can you pick me up outside of arrivals at 7 PM?
  • Baggage Claim - the part of the airport where you pick up your checked luggage
    • Example: We just got off our plane, and now we’re headed to baggage claim to pick up our suitcases!
  • Carousel - the specific conveyor belt where you pick up your luggage
    • Example: Baggage from Flight 374 from Mexico City is at Carousel 10.
  • Customer service - people whose job it is to help you with any problems you have
    • Example: If your luggage is lost, you need to speak with a customer service agent from your airline.

Immigration and Customs

  • Customs - duties or taxes that a country has for imports or exports, the section of the airport where you declare any new items you’re bringing into a country
    • Example: Usually, going through customs is an easy process if you have nothing to declare.
  • Do you have anything to declare? - the most common question asked at customs, asking you to verbally state any items you’re bringing into the country that may qualify for taxation
    • Example: Do you have anything to declare? Remember that there’s a limit for the amount of duty free items you can bring into the country.
  • Visa - an official document that shows you have permission to enter a country, whether that be for tourism, education, or work
    • Example: When I enter Chile, I need to show my temporary resident visa at passport control.



Written by Mariah Wika