Former Flight Attendant, UCR Alumna and Novelist Tiffany Hawk Decodes Airline Lingo

An online extra from UCR Magazine's Fall 2013 issue

Tiffany Hawk

By Litty Mathew (’91)

In UCR Magazine’s Fall 2013 issue, we feature alumna Tiffany Hawk (M.F.A. ’10). Her novel, “Love Me Anyway,”  follows two United Airlines flight attendants through formative experiences. We also learned that flight attendants, just like police officers and short order cooks, have their own special lingo. Hawk decodes the mystery language here; read her profile and the rest of the issue on

Arm doors: Always heard before takeoff, this is to verify that the emergency slide in each door is engaged for evacuation before the jet bridge pulls away. When armed, the slide will automatically inflate if the door opens. One of an airline’s biggest fears is an accidental slide deployment because it costs tens of thousands of dollars to repack. Worse, it could kill someone standing on the other side.

Cockpit queen: Refers to a flight attendant who lingers and flirts when delivering coffee to the pilots.

Commute: Rather than a drive to the airport, a commute is when a flight attendant or pilot lives in a distant city and must use their flight benefits to fly to their base before reporting for work.

Crash pad: An apartment where commuting crew members rent beds to sleep between trips when there isn’t time to fly home.

Deadhead: A flight attendant who catches a plane ride for a shift at another airport. A deadheading flight attendant may be in or out of uniform, and rides as a passenger. At some airlines it’s paid time, and at others it’s not. When paid, it’s a sweet deal.

Flight time: For crew, flight time is about more than scheduling. It’s the only thing they’re paid for. Traversing the airport, briefing, calming passengers during delays, boarding, deplaning, and even serving predeparture beverages is all performed pro bono.

Jumpseat therapy: The act of immediately divulging ones innermost secrets, scandals, tragedies and dreams to one’s colleagues. Even if they’ve just met, flight attendants share a deep bond and dish the minute the cabin is ready for takeoff.

"Love Me Anyway," a novel by UCR alumna Tiffany Hawk

“Love Me Anyway,” a novel by UCR alumna Tiffany Hawk

Layover: This is NOT the time between flights. To a flight attendant or pilot, a layover is an overnight. The time in between flights is just part of a normal day and doesn’t warrant a special term unless it’s annoyingly long. In that case it will be called a sit — as in, “I have a three-hour sit in Denver.”

Slam clicker: The airline version of a party pooper, this flight attendant heads directly to his or her hotel room, slams and locks the door, and doesn’t emerge until morning.

Screw desk: Sometimes known as “cruel scheduling.” Both are pejorative terms for the people who assign unenviable trips to flight attendants. For example, calling at 2 a.m. to assign a 5 a.m. check-in for six legs to Des Moines.

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