Saturday, January 23, 2021


The secrets of acronyms and codes
January 2008 273

Sometimes they are acronyms, sometimes they are three and four letter codes, and quite often, even those of us in the trade, so to speak, have no idea what they mean.

I am talking about the various short form descriptions used in the travel industry.
The dictionary explains that ACRONYM is a word formed from the first or first few letters of a series of words such as RADAR, which stands for radio detecting and ranging.
Most of us know that BA stands for British Airways and that UA is United Airlines, but why should UL stand for SriLankan Airlines? Or MS for Egypt Air? It can be just as confusing in the Gulf region, Oman Air’s code is WY and DXB stands for Dubai, but these are not as bad as in Canada, where YTO is the code for Toronto.
Most of us have now become used to these strange assemblies of letters and many of them are part of our everyday lives. We never question that BHX for some reason is Birmingham or MAA is Chennai, for we remember that city used to be called Madras.
How much do you know about the airline industry? Here is a puzzler for you - what. do bulls mastiff dogs, chow chows and American staffordshire terriers have in common? Answer: These breeds of dogs are not accepted by airlines for transportation. Nor will airlines accept Burmese, Himalayan or Persians cats. The reason would appear to be that these animals are susceptible to increased risk of heat strokes, breathing difficulties or travel stress.
Passengers will have to inform airlines in advance, if they are a MEDA (medical case), UNMR (unaccompanied minor) or a WCHS (wheel – chair passenger, who can walk slowly to or from a cabin seat) and make sure you are not an INAD (inadmissible passenger) or a No-Show (not using the reservation).
My better half is employed in the airline industry, so I know a few basics like a CHILD is a person, who has not reached the age of 12, an INFANT is below the age of two. I could dream up a few more acronyms for airport usage such as NBATB (need buggy, airport too big) and SIDUM (security is driving us mad).
With some of the legacy airlines, we used to have some fun and word games such as BOAC (better on a camel), though in fact it was a great carrier, and TWA (try walking across) and poor old SABENA, which everyone knows, but I have in fact had some lovely flights on Belgium’s national carrier.
Sometimes listening to airline people talking to each other is like eavesdropping on aliens. They speak of RPKs (revenue passenger kilometres), when they are measuring passenger traffic.
Or they will talk about FTKs (freight tonne kilometres), when they are working out the size of the cargo traffic.
Recently the passenger side employees throw in MENA, which confused me, until I realised, they meant Middle East/North Africa. In a timetable, often the description of seats can be puzzling. For instance nowadays LFBs (lie flat beds) actua1ly come in three categories for the uninitiated - cradle style, which is almost sitting upright, angled lie flat and then there is the actual fully flat seats.
Today with a brand new language emerging in SMS messages and on the Web, it is no wonder that many young people are not very good at spelling. I recently indulged in my own acronym making for my eldest grandson, I call him a BAWB, which means a borne athlete with brains.
In many businesses as well as the aviation industry hundreds of acronyms are used all over the world. Some are admittedly very useful, that is if you can remember them... Enjoy the deciphering. 
Speaking Out by Jonna Simon

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