Strange Travel Words – A Translation

The air travel industry has a language all its own, and it’s not always easy to understand. Allow me to translate.

LISTEN: Prof. Rick Seaney of Airfare U. translates more stuff!

Strange Travel Words: What They Mean

Confused by some of the euphemisms you hear? You are not alone.

1. Bumping

This is not what happens when a flight attendant whacks your elbow with a drink cart, it’s what happens when the airline overbooks a flight. Something has to give – or go – and it could be you (particularly if you’re not a passenger with elite status in a frequent flyer miles program).

There are two kinds of bumping:

  • Voluntary bumping: This is when you agree to get off the plane in exchange for some goody such as a voucher toward future travel. Pay close attention to the voucher though since some expire within a few months.
  • Involuntary bumping: You have no choice in the matter but you do receive compensation from U.S. airlines and as of Aug. 25, 2015 this rises to a range of $675 to $1,350 (what you get depends on how quickly the airline gets you on another plane). This compensation should be in cash (or more likely a check) so do not accept a voucher.

2. Mishandled

That’s the word used for bags that are damaged or missing or flat-out lost (though rare is the bag that is lost forever). If you’re a victim of mishandled baggage, do not leave the airport before filling out a claim form. You too may be compensated, up to $3,500 (also beginning in August) but please note that almost every airline forbids valuables in checked-bags and this can include anything from jewelry to electronics to more mundane items like documents, sun glasses, medications and more.

3. Buckle-Up

It means get out of the restroom and put on your seat belt. Granted, the number of passengers injured from turbulence is very low but when there are injuries, the vast majority affected those were not buckled up. As one flight attendant colorfully put it a few years back, “You don’t want to end up on the ceiling like pancake batter, do you?” More recently, a pilot told me he wishes passengers were required to be belted-in from take-off to landing. If you’re sitting down, buckle up.

4. Optional

This is how some airlines explain their fees, that you pay them only if you choose to. So if you go on a two week vacation, flying Allegiant, Frontier or Spirit, and choose to travel without a checked-bag or carry-on, you pay nothing!

 5. Whoaaa

This is sometimes heard aboard Southwest planes immediately upon landing. It means your pilot has a sense of humor.


Updated: June 16, 2015