Travel glossary: Travel phrases, travel-related words and acronyms

Travel planning can be fun.

But it can also be an overwhelming experience.

Especially if it’s one of your first trips abroad, and you aren’t an experienced traveller yet. What do all those terms and travel phrases mean? How to get everything right, and not ruin your holiday? How not to make silly mistakes? Are you planning a trip right now? And now you’re trying to understand travel industry jargon?

Check out our guide to most common travel terms and industry jargon.

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A person at the airport

Travel glossary


Actual time of arrival - the time when your flight actually lands.

Actual departure time - the time when your flight actually left for your destination

Add-on - optional extra for an additional charge.

Airport code - a three (IATA) or four (ICAO) letter code used to identify a particular airport. Three letter IATA codes are mainly used for ticketing. The code you see on your ticket is an IATA code.

Airside area - a controlled area in an airport after ticket gates and security check. Passengers with valid boarding passes can enter landside area.

Airport terminal - a building at an airport where passengers go to depart on a flight, or disembark form an aircraft.

All inclusive - a hotel (or a resort) that includes all or most meals and non-alcoholic drinks. Not every all inclusive resort includes alcoholic drinks.

ATOL - Air Travel Organiser's Licence; financial protection scheme operated by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). ATOL covers package holidays. All UK travel companies that sell package holidays are required to hold an ATOL certificate.

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Baggage allowance - The weight and volume of bag­gage that may be carried by a passenger without additional charge.

Baggage drop-off - an airline counter where you can check in your luggage (to be put on a plane), if you have already checked in for the flight (online or using self-service check-in kiosks).

Basic Economy - usually the cheapest airline seating option. Here are our tips for flying in Basic Economy.

B&B - Bed & Breakfast; overnight accommodation and breakfast, typically provided by small hotels and family-run guesthouses.

Boarding pass - a physical or digital confirmed ticket (for boarding the aircraft) that is issued to a passenger after the check in.

Booking confirmation - an e-mail that is sent to a customer after the booking is made. This e-mail informs the customer that the reservation is definite.

Booking reference number - a unique code which is assigned to every booking. It’s an internal identifier for your flight or hotel within the company's booking system.

Budget airline - low-cost airline or low-cost carrier; an airline that has lower fares and operates with emphasis on minimising operating costs. The tickets are cheap, and budget airlines doesn’t include traditional services and amenities in ticket price to make up for loss of earnings. Wizz Air is one of the most popular budget airlines in Europe.

Bulkhead - a wall which divides the inside of a plane. It separates one class from another on larger planes (e.g., the business class from the economy class). On smaller planes curtains work as a dividing wall (bulkhead).

Bulkhead seat - A seat directly behind the bulkhead. These seats usually have more legroom.

Business class - a class of seating on a plane which is level up from economy class but less expensive than first class.

Aircraft at the airport


Cabin crew - the members of an aircraft crew who attend to passengers.

Cancellation policy - the terms under which a reservation or booking may be cancelled; and will be there be any penalties by doing so.

Cancellation fee / penalty - an amount of money you must to pay if you cancel your booking after the cancellation deadline.

Capsule hostel - a hostel concept deriving from Japan, now popular across the globe. Rather than bunk beds capsule hostels provide enclosed single (sometimes, double) beds (capsules). Capsules often feature power sockets, a reading light, a personal air vent and other features.

Carry on baggage - a piece, or pieces, of luggage, you are allowed to take on board at no extra charge. Then there is a whole list of carry on baggage restrictions you have to know about, when going on a trip.

Charter airline - an airline that offers its aircrafts for rent to third-party travel providers. Learn more about your rights when you're travelling with a charter airline.

Charter flight - a flight by an aircraft chartered for a specific journey, not part of an airline's regular schedule.

Checked baggage - a piece, or pieces, of luggage that are put in in the hold of an aircraft.

Check in - a process of arriving and registering at a hotel or airport. Most airlines permit online check-in as well.

Codeshare flight (codeshare agreement) - arrangement where two or more airlines share the same flight. How to claim compensation if it was a codeshare flight?

Connecting flight - two or more subsequent flights. Passengers are required to change from one airplane to another in-between. There are airline protected connecting flights & self transfer connecting flights. Remember, that mostly connecting flights with low cost airlines work differently. Most of them are so called self transfer flights. And there is a list of other things to know, when travelling with budget airlines in Europe.

Continental breakfast - A light, uncooked breakfast consisting of pastries, bread, cheese, meat, coffee, tea and / or juice. This kind of breakfast is served in continental Europe and North America, as opposed to the English breakfast served in the UK. The term “Continental breakfast” originated in Britain in the mid-19th century. 

Customs and immigration - checkpoints through which travellers must pass before they leave the airport.


Denied boarding - when an airline doesn’t let a passenger on a plane due to overbooking. What to do if you are denied boarding? Could you be entitled to denied boarding compensation?

Direct flight - a commercial flight from Point A to Point B, with no change in flight numbers. Unlike non-stop flight, a direct flight may include one or more stops along its route.

Domestic flight - a flight within a country.

Double room - a room that can accommodate two people, and has one bed. It can be double, queen or king bed.

Dorm room - a large (shared) room containing several beds. Such rooms are generally booked on a per bed basis.

Dorm bed - a bed in a dorm room.

Arrivals area of the airport


Economy class - usually the cheapest type of seat in a plane. Unless there is also Basic economy.

Economy plus - a travel class offered on some airlines. It’s a class of seating on an aircraft that is superior to economy class but less expensive (and with less comfort) than business class.

Estimated time of arrival (ETA) - the time when an aircraft (or other vehicle) is expected to arrive at a destination.

Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) - the time when an aircraft (or other vehicle) is expected to depart from an airport (bus terminal / train station, etc.).

E-ticket (electronic ticket) - digital ticket equivalent of a paper ticket.

EU flight compensation - compensation (money) passengers may get in case of flight disruption (flight cancellation, flight delay or denied boarding due to overbooking). Read more about flight delay compensation, flight cancellation compensation, denied boarding compensation and flight downgrade compensation.

EU flight compensation regulation 261/2004 (EC 261) - a regulation in EU law establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of long flight delays (3+ hours), flight cancellations or denied boarding. EU Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004 applies to all EU Member States, Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland. See the regulation here.


Fare alert - a notification which is sent to a person’s e-mail when the price for particular flight our route changes. A person has to subscribe in order to receive fare alerts.

Fast track - a paid service (and a dedicated lane at the airport security) which allows to skip the queue at the security check and reach the departure gate faster. One of the ways to get through airport security faster.

5 star airline - an airline that delivers the highest level of service.

First class - a class of seating on an aircraft that is superior to business class.

Flight attendant - a steward or stewardess on an aircraft.

Flight cancellation compensation - amount of money a passenger may get in case of flight cancellation. Learn more about flight cancellation compensation.

Flight delay - when a flight takes off and/or lands later than planned.

Flight delay compensation - amount of money a passenger may get in case of flight delay. Read more about flight delay compensation.

Flight disruption - flight cancellation or delay.

Flying standby - buying a ticket (last minute) for the next available flight with empty seats.

Force Majeure - extraordinary circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract. Examples - severe weather conditions, political unrest, etc.

Full service airline - an airline which offers passengers checked baggage, meals, beverages and comforts such as blankets and pillows in the ticket price. There are some major differences between full service and low cost airlines, but they are fading.

A lot of people at the airport


Galley - a section of a ship, train, or aircraft where food is prepared.


High (peak) season - the time when a place receives the most visitors.

Hub - an airport in which an airline has a major presence. Often it’s in the city where the airline was formed.


Itinerary - a travel plan with a list of cities you want to visit, a list of hotels you’ve booked and a list of activities for each day.

International flight - a commercial flight where the departure and the arrival take place in different countries. 


Landside area - the opposite to “Airside”. It’s an area in the airport where are no entry restrictions. Any person (even the ones without a boarding pass) is allowed to enter.

Layover - a wait at the airport between two flights.

Legroom - amount of space between your seat and the seat in front of you, in which a passenger can put their legs.

Low cost carrier - see “Budget airline”.

Long-haul flight - a flight lasting more than 6 hours. Learn how to prepare for a long haul flight & what not to forget with you.


Matrix (ITA Software) - an airfare search website made by ITA Software, a travel industry software division of Google. However, it is not possible to buy tickets from “Matrix”.

Minimum connect time - the minimum amount of time that is considered sufficient to make a connection between an arriving flight and a departing flight on the same ticket (meaning - a connecting flight). The minimum connect time is agreed in advance between airlines and airport authorities.

Multi-city flight - multiple stopovers on the same ticket. You add a couple (or a few) more flights to different cities on the way to your final destination.

At the airport


No-show - when a person who has a hotel or flight booking doesn’t turn up and use the booking. Neither do they cancel it.

Non-refundable (ticket, accommodation, etc.) - cannot be returned / cancelled for a refund.

Non-stop flight - a commercial flight which takes passengers from one airport to another without stopping (unlike direct flight).


Off-season - a time of year when travel business is slack due to low tourist numbers.

Online check-in - a process in which passengers confirm their presence on a flight via the Internet.

Open-jaw flight - a return ticket where the destination and/or the origin are not the same. For example, a flight which flies from Point A to Point B, then from Point C back to Point A. 

Overbooking - accept more reservations for (a flight or hotel) than there are seats, rooms, places, tickets, etc.

Oversized baggage - bags that are over the general size limitations.


Premium economy - see “Economy plus”.

Priority boarding - a service offered by budget airlines. This service allows passengers to skip the queue at the gate and board the aircraft faster. Some budget airlines allow their priority passengers one extra bag on board.


Red eye flight - a long haul flight that scheduled to depart at night or late evening and arrive the next morning.

Roundtrip - a journey (on a flight, train, bus) to a place and back again.

Inside the airport


Scheduled, or standard, time of arrival - the time your flight should have arrived at the destination.

Scheduled departure time - the time your flight should have departed, and it is specified on the boarding pass and in the schedules.

Scheduled flight - a flight that operates regularly and is planned a long time before.

Self-service check-in kiosk - a machine which a passenger can use to check-in for their flight.

Self transfer - buying separate flights (not travelling on the same ticket) from different airlines or the same budget airline which doesn’t offer connecting flights. In which cases the passenger is responsible for the connection.

Shoulder season - a time just after the peak season and before the off season.

Single room - a room that can accommodate one person, and has one single bed.

Suite - a set of connected room (under one room number).


Transfer - prearranged transport from one place to another. E.g., from an airport to a hotel.

Transit area - an area in an airport (airside) for the passengers. For connecting passengers: visa is not necessary if a passenger stays in the transit area.

Transit visa - a permission to pass through a country.

Transit passenger - a passenger who has a layover in an airport transit area and does’t leave the airport.

Travel agent – An individual or company that sell travel services on a commission basis.

Travel agency – Usually used in the travel industry to refer to an ARC-appointed storefront retailer.

Travel document - passport. In some cases, also a person’s ID. See our international travel document checklist.

Travel insurance - insurance coverage for risks associated with traveling such as loss of luggage, delays, and death or injury while in a foreign country.

Travel fare aggregator and travel fare metasearch engine - airfare search sites, such as SkyScanner, Momondo, Google Flights, Kayak.

Triple room - a room that can comfortably accommodate three people.

Trip cancellation insurance - reimburses a person for non refundable trip costs if they have to cancel the trip. Covered reasons: injury, sickness, or death of a family member, or a traveling companion. 

Twin room - a room that can accommodate two people, and has two separate single beds.


Visa - a permission to enter the country and stay there for a specified period of time.

Visa free entry - no visa is needed to enter the country.

Voucher - a digital or physical coupon that entitles its holder to a discount, or can be exchanged for goods or services.

Have a great trip!

Remember - whenever your flight is delayed, cancelled or you've been denied boarding - you might be entitled to flight compensation. Contact us to get it sorted out right away!