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‘Is Tom Cruise on board?’ We crack the cabin crew code you hear on holiday flights 

‘Is Tom Cruise on board?’ We crack the cabin crew code you hear on holiday flights

  • Flying doctor Ben MacFarlane flies poorly Britons home from disasters
  • He’s been flying through the pandemic on mostly half-empty planes
  • This has given him plenty of time to chat to cabin crew and learn their secrets… 


I’m a flying doctor, who helps bring ill and injured Britons home after disasters overseas. I’ve been flying through the pandemic, and as most planes have been half-empty I’ve had plenty of time to chat to some of the world’s most interesting people: cabin crew.

As well as all the usual gossip in the galley, I’ve been able to ask flight attendants to explain some of the mysterious phrases they use. Here’s what I’ve learned.

‘Is Tom Cruise on board?’ 

A mention of Tom Cruise by cabin crew likely refers to two mundane galley items

If you hear flight attendants ask this at the start of the meal service, it’s got nothing to do with the Hollywood star.

It’s cabin crew code to work out which of the identical pots on the trolley contains coffee and which contains tea. If ‘Tom Cruise is on board’ then crew are following T&C positions that day. Tea, Tom, is in the pot on the left of the cart. Coffee, Cruise, is in the identical pot on the right. Simples.

‘Do you want to sing or dance?’ 

Some crew like to have the microphone and read out the words of the PA. Others prefer to stand in the cabin doing the actions with the seat belt and life jacket

Some crew like to have the microphone and read out the words of the PA. Others prefer to stand in the cabin doing the actions with the seat belt and life jacket

No, crew aren’t starting cabaret. This one is all about the safety demonstration at the start of a flight.

Some crew like to have the microphone and read out the words of the PA. Others prefer to stand in the cabin doing the actions with the seat belt and life jacket. Pick the PA role and you sing. Do the demo and you dance.

‘Have you found Bob yet?’ 

Bob is a code word that cabin crew use to describe an attractive passenger (stock image)

Bob is a code word that cabin crew use to describe an attractive passenger (stock image)

Learn more about life at 35,000 feet in Holiday SOS: The Lifesaving Adventures of a Travelling Doctor by Ben MacFarlane

You’re more likely to hear this on a long flight, when crew may have a little more time for fun.

Who’s Bob? 

He, or she, is the Best on Board the plane. Every cabin crew member looks for theirs: the most beautiful woman or hottest guy they fancy the most. ‘Mine’s at the window in 12A,’ you might hear a flight attendant say. Or: ‘Check mine out in 33D.’ If you’re lucky, Bob could be you.

‘That’s my ABP’

To be honest, you probably don’t want to hear this one.

ABP is cabin crew code for an Able-Bodied Person. If a plane has to make an emergency landing, crew earmark a strong, Able-Bodied Person to help. An ABP may be asked to hold other passengers back for a few moments while the door opens and the emergency slide inflates. Or they may be needed to help open the door if, for some reason, it jams.

It won’t happen, crew tell me. But they’re trained to be ready for everything and ABPs can help.

‘Have we met?’ 

It’s an odd thing to hear two crew ask each other at the end of a long flight, when they’ve been working together happily for hours.

But it’s nothing to do with making new friends. Crew ask the question when they’re checking passengers have their seat belts on for landing. If one flight attendant is checking the cabin from front to back and the other is going from back to front, they have to say out loud that they’ve ‘met’ in the middle.

That way they know everyone is belted up and the cabin is secure for landing.

Learn more about life at 35,000 feet in Holiday SOS: The Lifesaving Adventures of a Travelling Doctor by Ben MacFarlane, available on Amazon.  

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