Secret Nicknames Flight Attendants Have For Passengers

You know how at places like Walt Disney World, cast members say things like "code v" instead of "Hey, a kid threw up on Mad Tea Party again?" Flight attendants have a similar secret language they use to signal to other crew members whether a passenger is a pain or a pleasure. They even have lingo to insinuate that they think one of the passengers is attractive.

Flight attendants spend much of their day surrounded on all sides by random strangers. So we shouldn't be surprised that flight attendants have code words to chat with other flight attendants about potentially tricky situations. After all, you can't really say, "Hey, the guy in 12A is a real jerk," right? 

If you are a frequent flyer, you may be familiar with a handful of these code words. Hopefully, you aren't most familiar with the term "Philip," and if you are, maybe reconsider how you treat flight crews or other passengers. Even if you've heard a flight crew use some of these code words before, understanding this secret language is a fun way to be a more informed passenger. 


This isn't indicative of anything other than someone being a passenger on the airplane. Pax is shorthand for the term passenger. Pax isn't just applicable to flight attendants; it's generally a term used in aviation as an industry. Especially since flight attendants are so busy, any way to shorten addressing an issue is better, especially if it means avoiding names. Like if pax 38b is having an issue, they can communicate that between themselves without outing the individual by name. The largest commercial airplane currently holds over 850 passengers, so every little shortcut definitely helps.

From personal experience, you're likely to hear fight attendants referring to pax about something they need. If you're seated by the galley, for example, after beverage service, you might hear a flight attendant tell another that a pax who was sleeping would like water when they get a minute.


What is interesting about B.O.B. is that its meaning varies depending on the flight attendant you speak to. Some say it means a passenger will need more assistance. Others believe it stands for Best on Board or Boyfriend on Board, signaling that a flight attendant thinks someone is really attractive. In either case, it's a nickname that alerts other flight attendants to pay attention. 

An anonymous flight attendant told Buzzfeed that they've known B.O.B. to mean the latter. "I've been a flight attendant for seven years," the flight attendant insider told the outlet. "We definitely take notice of who's hot on the plane. We play a game by calling people BOB ('Boyfriend on Board') or a 'raftie,' as in someone who you'd want in your raft in the water if need be." So, if you hear a flight attendant refer to you as a B.O.B, you should probably be flattered. 


The opposite of a B.O.B, a Philip is a bad passenger. In The U.S. Sun, an anonymous flight attendant blogger revealed to the outlet that the nickname is reserved for particularly bad passengers. "If you're labeled a 'Philip' then you've done something wrong and should probably expect to get bad service for the rest of the flight," she wrote. "That name originated from the term PILP — Passenger I'd Like to Punch — but has changed over time to become slightly more subtle."

One way to avoid being a Philip is to be polite to your flight attendants and fellow passengers. Courtesy is a big plus in air travel if you don't want to be the least-liked person onboard. Be especially nice to your flight attendants during boarding, too, because they aren't paid until the plane is actually in the air. And always say "hello" or reply in some way when the flight attendants greet you during boarding; even that goes a long way. 


Screamer as a nickname is straightforward. If a flight attendant says there is a screamer, look around for an upset passenger. Often, this less-than-subtle nickname means someone on the plane is having a bad day or making a bad day for everyone else. According to author Rene Foss in her book "Around the World in a Bad Mood: Confessions of a Flight Attendant," a screamer is "a passenger who has lost his or her cool. Sort of like a 'bleeder' in the medical profession."

Bad behavior on planes has been on the rise. Per the International Air Transport Association, there has been an increase in the number of verbal or physical incidents on planes in the last few years. Chances are, screamers are among some of these incidents, which happen at a rate of 1.76 incidents per 586 flights. Given that there are over 45,000 flights per day in the United States via the Federal Aviation Administration, that means there are about 120 reported incidents every single day. 

Crumb Crunchers

Crumb cruncher is a cute, alliterative way of referring to kids. Sure, it could be seen as derogatory when you could just say, "Economy is full of kids today," but it's a lot more fun to say, "Economy is full of crumb crunchers today." We haven't personally heard this one before, though we have seen how amazing flight attendants are with kiddo passengers. 

If you want to avoid kids altogether, you may want to avoid the kiddo-friendlier airlines. According to Micralite, via The Sun, the best airlines for families with kids are Air France, Virgin Atlantic Airlines, South African Airways, and British Airways. Whereas, some of the airlines least friendly for kids per the site were Flydubai, Ryanair, and Easyjet. So, maybe fly budget airlines if you don't want to encounter any crumb crunchers on a flight. Even if you fly those airlines, though, it's not a guarantee it won't be like an elementary school field trip. That said, flight attendants offer a few tips for seat-kicking kids.

Baby Jesus

If you hear a flight attendant refer to your baby as Baby Jesus, don't be flattered. It's a code name for a fussy baby whose parents are doing nothing to help. Remember, it isn't a flight attendant's job to take care of your kid — they've got a plane full of people to look out for.

"No one wants to be the stereotypical 'bad parent' on a plane with a screaming kid, but there's a reason it's so prevalent," Tyler Lund, founder and lead contributor at Dad on the Run told The Bump. "Parents need to do what they need to do and what's best for their children, regardless of whether it interrupts another passenger's enjoyment of their in-flight movie." Taking care of the little one's needs rather than allowing them to just wreak havoc on the plane is a terrific way to avoid your wee one getting this mean nickname. 


Spinners refer to passengers who board late and don't have a seat assignment. The term signals how these passengers will spin around in the plane aisle looking for an open seat to take, which may jam up the aisle. Now that you know this term exists, we bet you'll look for a spinner on your next Southwest flight.

You can avoid the airline giving away your seat by being on time. Usually, they start to bump no-shows out of their assigned seats 10 to 15 minutes before takeoff. Even so, it isn't a common thing that happens. "We have 522,000 customers traveling on Delta today. It's not something that's even a percentage of that," Delta spokesman Drake Castañeda told The Washington Post. Even if you think you might be cutting it close, once you're at your gate, an agent can still help you. If they've bumped you from your spot, they may put you on another flight or help you find an empty seat. 

Hot Coffee

No, this isn't a reference to the beverage cart coming by. If you hear a flight attendant say "hot coffee" followed by a seat number, they're saying that the passenger in that seat is a hottie. This code word can go along with one of the definitions of a B.O.B, though it's more straightforward since there probably isn't another definition of a "hot coffee" in flight attendant slang.

"I recall for a few years there was a 'hot coffee' code among flight attendants," flight attendant Emily Witkop told The New York Post."You would say, 'I've got hot coffee in 3B!' Which meant there was an extremely attractive passenger in that particular seat who the other flight attendants should check out." It's possible that if you hear that phrase after beverage service someone actually wanted coffee, or there's an attractive person nearby. Who knows, maybe you're the hot coffee!

Lactose-Intolerant Vegan

Just because you may not be a Philip doesn't mean you can't still be on a flight attendant's nerves. When a flight attendant calls someone a Lactose-Intolerant Vegan, that passenger has done something to irritate them. However, based on our research, this nickname seems a lot more niche and less used than other code words in our list.

A flight attendant named Kristen told Vox that there are a lot of ways to stay on a flight attendant's good side, though most of them are common sense. Mostly, you simply want to be nice to the crew because they're working hard to help and keep everyone safe, but also understand the parameters of their jobs. "The biggest issue is not understanding you're in a small space with 150 other people," she told the outlet. She also said it bothers flight attendants when people ask them to take garbage during drink service rather than waiting until they come around with garbage bags. 


Another obvious nickname, a runner is a passenger literally running to their gate. Perhaps they had a tight connection or overslept. Either way, if you hustle too fast, you're a runner. These folks may also be spinners once they get on the plane, depending on whether the flight gave their seat away or not. 

It's no fun to miss a flight, which is why people book it to their gates when they're running behind. Even so, between two and eight percent of passengers miss a flight every day, according to USA Today. One way to avoid this, particularly if you're not flying direct, is to give yourself plenty of time between flights to get to the gate in a safe manner. Generally, you want to have at least 60 to 90 minutes for domestic flights and a few hours for international. Remember, for international flights, you have to clear customs, immigration, and sometimes more security checkpoints before getting to your gate, and that can take a while. 

Gate Lice

A super-duper unflattering name you don't want a flight attendant to call you is gate lice, which is a term for people who crowd the gate area. Gate lice are passengers who line up at the head of the boarding area even if they're in Group 8. They're a nuisance to other passengers, flight attendants, and gate staff, and being inconsiderate at the gate is one of the things flight attendants hate

"Just stay as out of the way as possible of the boarding area until your group is at least close to being called," flight attendant and Two Guys on a Plane blogger Rich Henderson told Business Insider. "If our frequent fliers and top-tier people aren't even close to getting on the plane and your crew isn't even close to getting on the plane, you really have no business standing right at the gate." 

The best way to avoid being gate lice is just to be patient. Stay seated or stand away from the boarding area until your group is called. It will also make for smoother boarding if people in later groups don't all cram into the first boarding group.