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Common aviation terms and their meaning

The aviation world is full of terms describing your trip and way of flying – in this guide we have broken down some of the mostly used terms.

aviation terms and phrases


An airline is a company that provides regular air transport services of traveling passengers and goods. Some of the biggest airlines in the world are found in the US, for example Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

Air carrier

An air carrier can either be an airline or an aircraft assigned by for example a government agency to carry people or cargo.


Codeshare is an arrangement between two or more airlines making it possible for them to sell seats on each other’s flights. Each flight is operated by one carrier, and all the cooperating airlines can sell seats on the flight and assign it their own flight number.

If you want to know more about codeshare, take a look at our complete guide by following the link below.


Connecting flights means that you reach your final destination through two or more flights. In other words, you will land and change aircraft at least once during your travel. This can mean that you need to move between terminals at the connecting airport, or re-check your luggage.

Direct flight

As confusing as it may sound, a direct flight might actually make a stop or two along the way to refuel or pick up more passengers. If you want to be completely sure you don't have to touch ground during your travel, you should look for the option on non-stop flight. 

miami paris flight
When flying from Miami to Paris your trip normally consists of several flight legs.

Flight leg

A flight leg is a direct flight between two airports. With this said, your itinerary can consist of several legs or segments taking you to the final destination.

Flight length

Flight length is defined as the distance of a flight, usually measured in kilometers or miles. Flight lengths are normally divided into three categories – long-, medium- or short-haul. The definition of the hauls differ between different airlines/airports/alliances. For example, American Airlines defines the different hauls by distance – a short- or medium haul is less than 3000 miles, while long-haul flights are more than 3000 miles. By many others the definition lies in the time of the flight. A short-haul flight has a duration of up to three hours, a medium-haul flight takes 3-6 hours and a long-haul flight runs for 6-12 hours. An example of a long-haul flight is between Los Angeles Airport and London Heathrow Airport.

Flight number

Each flight is assigned a specific flight number. The code consists of the airline’s two character IATA code and a digit number consisting of one to four numbers. How the number is chosen varies immensely between different airlines, but normally a flight headed north or east are assigned even numbers, while south and westbound flights have odd numbered codes.

Flight time

The definition of flight time is the duration of a flight, measured in hours and minutes.


IATA (International Air Transport Association) is a global association of the world’s airlines. Almost 300 airlines around the world are members of IATA, which corresponds to more than 80 per cent of total air traffic. The aim of the organization is to provide efficient service for the airlines and its passengers.

Non-stop flight

A non-stop flight means you reach your final destination with no pit stops. There can be several airlines offering non-stop flights between airports, like in the case of New York to London where you find non-stop flights with five different airlines – for example British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.


Transit flight is another word for connecting flight and the opposite of a direct or non-stop flight. You can have one or more stops if you choose a transit flight.