Learn the terms, know the game

When reading about miles, points, and flying higher, you might come across some unclear, confusing, or just plain strange terms.  Consult this subsection to learn the vocabulary associated with the trade.  Vocabulary is arranged alphabetically, and if you want something specific, you can search for it by using your web browser’s search function (Ctrl+F on PC, Cmd+F on Mac).

Airside Used to describe something — usually an airport feature like a lounge — that is located after the primary security checkpoint.  You will need a same day boarding pass to physically access this place.  Compare to “landside.”

Alliance A collection of airlines that pool resources together in order to save costs, increase the size of route networks, and share profits from connecting passengers.

Aspirational An adjective used to characterize something as prestigious, desirable, and luxurious.  To say that a hotel is “aspirational,” for example, means that it offers high-quality and noteworthy accommodations to its guests.

Avgeek Short for “Aviation Geek,” an avgeek is someone who is passionate about aviation.

Avios The award currency used primarily by British Airways and Iberia, but also by Aer Lingus, Air Italy, Flybe, Kulula, and Vueling.  This is a specific type of award point.

Closed Jaw For a travel reservation to be considered “closed jaw,” the traveler must have a single departure point, a single arrival point, and then return to the original departure point.  See below for a visualization.  Compare with “Open Jaw.”

Closed Jaw
A closed jaw route between New York and Los Angeles. Map courtesy of gcmap.com.

F Class An abbreviation for an airplane seat in First Class. Compare with “J Class” and “Y Class.”

Fixed Point Currency Reward points that are tied to a specific value.  The most common point-to-cash ratio is:  1 mile = 1 cent.

Flexible Point Currency Reward points that can be transferred to companies other than the issuing one.  The value of the points change upon transfer, thus making their values variable (i.e. flexible).

Foo Foo A term that probably shouldn’t appear as many times as it does on The Higher Flyer, but is used to describe something that’s overly ornate and/or frilly.  In the best case scenario, something “foo foo” can be characterized as nouveau riche; in the worst, tacky.

Gate Lice Passengers who crowd the boarding area in hopes of getting on the plane sooner.  Typically this refers to line jumpers.

Ghetto Biz Short for “Ghetto Business Class,” this is an “edgy” way (that’s admittedly common parlance in the world of higher flying) of referring to when you have an empty row of economy class seats to yourself.  Because you have no neighbors, you can spread out as you might in a lie flat seat in a premium cabin… but obviously this arrangement is a huge step down from business class.

Hard Product The physical aspect of an airline’s offerings on board.  Includes seats and restrooms.  Compare with “Soft Product.”

Hotel Family A collection of hotel chains that are managed by an overarching parent company.  Members pool resources together in order to save costs and retain guests.

IFE Short for “In flight entertainment,” refers to various soft product offerings designed to help passengers pass the time in the air.  Can include, but is not limited to:  seat-back entertainment systems with on demand movies and television shows, inflight wifi, a GPS/moving map program, and more.

J Class An abbreviation for an airplane seat in Business Class.  Compare with “F Class” and “Y Class.”

Landside Used to describe something — usually an airport feature like a lounge — that is located before the primary security checkpoint.  You theoretically don’t need a boarding pass to physically access this place.  Compare to “airside.”

Legacy Carrier An airline that has long been established in a particular country or region.  Fares usually range on the more expensive end, but often include privileges not found on low cost carriers.

Low Cost Carrier (LCC) An airline that offers cheap air fares, but no frills.  It is not uncommon for fees to be tacked on to a base air fare, such as for checked baggage and meals.

Minimum Connection Time (MCT) The mandated amount of time that airlines must allow for connecting passengers to transfer between flights at an airport.  It’s highly variable depending on conditions, but passengers on domestic flights have a shorter amount of time than do those on international flights.

One Way (O/W) A travel reservation with only an outbound leg scheduled; there is no return leg booked on that ticket.

Online Travel Agency (OTA) Like a regular travel agency, an online travel agency, frequently abbreviated as “OTA,” aggregates flights, hotels, and the like and presents them to customers.  Unlike traditional travel agencies, the customers are responsible for booking their trips themselves (as opposed to someone else doing it).

Open Jaw For a travel reservation to be considered “open jaw,” the traveler must have a single departure point, a single arrival point, but then return to a place other than the original departure point.  See below for a visualization of this.  Compare with “Closed Jaw.”

open jaw map
A open jaw between New York and Los Angeles and Miami. On a single ticket, the traveler would depart New York for Los Angeles, but return to Miami. Map courtesy of gcmap.com.

Perma-grime Unappealing and nearly uncleanable stains and scuffs found on board airplanes.  Perma-grime starts forming with age typically on/near commonly used items such as lavatory sinks, in flight entertainment systems, and seat controls.

spirit airlines hard lavatory sink
Perma-grime can be seen in the basin of the sink

Reward Points A secondary currency offered by banks, hotels, and airlines (among other companies) that are designed to incentivize continued patronage from customers.  Frequent flyer miles are a type of reward points.

Roll Aboard Another name for a carry-on suitcase.

Round Trip (R/T) A travel reservation with both an outbound leg and a return leg booked on a single ticket.

Schengen Zone A group of 26 European states that have abolished mutual border controls.  In practice, this means that anyone can travel between any of the signatory countries without going through immigration processing.  The 26 member states are:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • The Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Seat Pitch The distance between seats on an airplane.  Seat pitch is generally used to measure legroom.

Soft Product The service aspect of an airline’s offerings on board.  Includes meals and flight attendants.  Compare with “Hard Product.”

TATL Short for “Trans-Atlantic.”  Generally refers to flights that connect North America with Europe, although could also refer to flights between South/Central America and Europe, flights between North/South/Central America and Africa, etc.

TL;DR Short for “Too long; didn’t read.”  Usually signifies a single sentence that summarizes a larger body of text.

Y Class An abbreviation for an airplane seat in Economy Class.  Compare with “F Class” and “J Class.”

3-4-3 A (sample) numerical representation of how many total seats there are in any given airplane row, as well as how they are clustered.  The numbers represent how many seats there are in a cluster, and the hyphens represent aisles.  In this example, there are 3 seats grouped together, an aisle, 4 seats in the middle section, another aisle, then 3 seats on the far side of the plane.  Other common combinations are: 3-3-3 (3 seats, an aisle, 3 more seats, an aisle, 3 more seats), 2-4-2, 2-3-2, 1-2-1, 3-3 (3 seats, an aisle, 3 more seats), 2-2.

5/24 Rule A Chase policy that dictates that those who have applied for more than five credit cards in the past 24 months will be denied automatically for most of its cards.

*A Short for “Star Alliance”

#ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm The hashtag, as written in various THF reviews, is self-explanatory, but it’s inspired by C+C Music Factory’s 1991 hit “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm….”

…and more terms are constantly being added. Contact me if you want to request an entry.