‘Last-minute paperwork’: 10 common airline phrases explained

Aviation breeds a language all its own. “Arm doors and cross check”, “codeshare” and “flightmare” need little explanation but there are plenty that are more opaque. Here’s a primer.


Skiplaggers leave their flight before the final leg, saving money in the process.

Skiplaggers leave their flight before the final leg, saving money in the process. Credit: iStock

Say you want to fly from Cairo to London. The cheapest ticket might be $450, however on one website you find a flight from Cairo to Dublin via London for $350. You buy that, and when the aircraft stops at London you hop off and don’t reboard for the Dublin leg. That’s skiplagging.

Sounds weird that a longer flight can be cheaper than a shorter one, but Cairo to London is a popular route, Cairo to Dublin isn’t, but the airline can sell more seats between Cairo and London if it advertises an onward flight to Dublin, while the London-Dublin sector is a strong seller. Making the Cairo-Dublin flight cheaper than the Cairo-London flight gives the airline the load factor they’re aiming for.

Airlines hate skiplaggers because they reduce revenue when they have an empty seat on the London-Dublin sector which they can’t sell, plus it can delay the flight out of London since the aircraft waits for a passenger who fails to board.

Skiplaggers need to travel light. Since checked luggage will be tagged to its final ticketed destination, it’s carry-on bags only. Skiplagging doesn’t really work in Australia, but the US, with its huge and complex domestic flight network, is skiplag heaven.

Open-jaw ticket

Not a flight filled with open-mouth snorers but a return airfare that takes you into one city and out of another, from where you return to your point of origin. You might fly into London, travel by train through Europe and end up in Vienna, from where you return to Australia.

Even if you’re flying Qantas, which flies into London but not Vienna, one of its partner airlines will, and therefore you’ll be on a codeshare flight out of Vienna. Booking an open-jaw ticket is simple if you use an airline’s website, or a metasearch engine. Select the “multi-city” option.


Legacy carrier

Qantas is considered a “legacy carrier”.

Qantas is considered a “legacy carrier”.Credit: Craig Abraham

Strictly speaking, a legacy carrier is one that existed prior to the 1978 US Airline Deregulation Act, which unzipped America’s skies and paved the runways for low-cost carriers. The name suggests a higher service level than on a budget carrier, although many of the perks that were once standard when you flew with a legacy carrier now come with a price tag.

While Qantas, Singapore Airlines, United and British Airways are all legacy carriers, Emirates and Qatar are not, although both belong among the world’s best airlines. Burdened with higher costs, many legacy carriers with venerable names including Pan Am, Continental, Swissair and Ansett Australia, have either folded their wings or merged.

Fifth freedom rights

This is the right of a carrier to transport passengers between two countries other than the country where that carrier is based. For example, Turkish Airlines is hoping to begin operating flights to Australia, and also to be granted the fifth freedom right to transport passengers between Australian airports and Singapore.

Airlines in the country from which these flights would originate – Australia and Singapore in this case – often oppose the granting of those rights since it means greater competition, and possibly lower prices. Fifth freedom rights are more often granted on routes where no airlines in the affected countries have any interest, such as the Fiji Airways flight between Kiribati and Honolulu. However, that’s not the case with the lucrative Singapore-Australia route.

Wet lease, dry lease, damp lease

Aircraft are expensive, and the commercial aviation industry is so full of unknowns that many airlines prefer to lease their aircraft rather than buy. On a wet lease, also known as an Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) lease, the lessor provides all those items. A dry lease involves just the aircraft. A damp lease is the in-betweener, an aircraft with pilots only.

At the start of the war in Ukraine, many leased aircraft were stranded in Russia yet those airlines were no longer able to operate beyond Russia and a few sympathetic countries. The airlines stopped paying their lease fees, the lessors wanted the goods back but the Russian government allowed leased aircraft to be re-registered in Russia, in effect possession by theft.

Ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC)

Ryanair is Europe’s biggest airline, despite its no-frills service.

Ryanair is Europe’s biggest airline, despite its no-frills service.Credit: Bloomberg

They’re the cheapest way to fly. You get a seat but checked baggage, seat selection, extra legroom, food and beverages involve a fee.

In the case of Ryanair, there’s a fee for an adult who wants to sit next to their child under 12 years. If you check in online for a Ryanair flight and show up at the airport and either don’t have or can’t access the Ryanair App, the airline charges a boarding card reissue fee of €20 ($33). Ryanair also happens to be Europe’s largest carrier.

ULCCs tend to operate just one aircraft type. To save time and money, they will often bus passengers between aircraft and terminal rather than using an airbridge. They may also use airports far from the cities which they serve, such as Beauvais–Tille Airport, which some ULCC carriers use for their Paris flights, although the airport lies more than 80 kilometres from the French capital.


A layover is anything less than 24 hours, a stopover is anything more. Some airlines charge more if you break your journey with a stopover but it’s an inexpensive way to add another destination to your itinerary.

Stopovers are popular in hub cities such as Bangkok, Singapore, Doha and Dubai, and many airlines foster them with discount hotel and experience packages. They also give you time to catch your breath, get some exercise and recover a little from jet lag.


PNR stands for Passenger Name Record. It’s a six-character code made up of letters and numbers that identifies the holder of an air ticket. After you’ve made your booking, any communication between you and the airline, such as seat change or online check-in, will require your PNR. When you book through an airline you should get your PNR code in your booking confirmation.

If you book through an online travel agent (OTA), instead of a PNR you might get a booking reference number that allows you to communicate with the OTA, not with the airline.

A PIR is a Property Irregularity Report, which is what you need to complete if your checked luggage fails to arrive when you do. Note what PIR stands for in reverse. Grasp the concept, but hope for the best.

Sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs)

The holy grail of the aviation industry, SAFs are fuels made from sustainable feedstocks which can be used to power aircraft jet engines, replacing traditional fossil jet fuel. Typical feedstocks include used cooking oil and other non-palm waste oils from animals or plants and packaging, paper, textiles and food scraps that would otherwise go to landfill. Burning SAF in an aircraft engine results in reduced carbon emissions, overcoming a major hurdle for the future of the aviation industry.

Last-minute paperwork

It won’t take many flights before you hear a pilot announce they are doing some “last-minute paperwork”.

It won’t take many flights before you hear a pilot announce they are doing some “last-minute paperwork”.Credit: iStock

“Ladies and gentlemen, we ask you to sit tight for a few more minutes while we complete last-minute paperwork.” You don’t have to take too many flights before you’ll hear that announcement from the flight deck.

Regardless of whether he or she is sitting in the cockpit of a Piper Cub or an Airbus A380 superjumbo, the pilot must complete paperwork confirming they have completed a series of checks – among others reviewed the flight plan, the weather report, maintenance reports, the weight-and-balance record and airport charts if they’re flying to or from an unfamiliar airport. The announcement can also be a signal that something isn’t quite right, and the aircraft isn’t going anywhere until it’s fixed. Who’s going to argue?

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Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/648528537/0vm9xVMX6-jFmxzj?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

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