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8 Useful English Words and Phrases for the Airport

English is much of the world’s second language – and that’s certainly true when it comes to airports and planes. While they are in the air, pilots have to give announcements in English by law.

No matter what international airport you visit in the world, you will see signs in English and you will be able to communicate with airport staff in English, too.

This means that it’s extremely useful to know the English words and phrases for things you see, need, or do while at an airport.

Here are 15 of the most important ones.

Check-In Desk

This is the place you go to show your passport, hand over your luggage to put into the plane, and get your boarding pass. If you don’t have any luggage, you sometimes don’t need to go to a desk. Instead, you can check-in online through an app or website and have the boarding pass sent to your phone.

Boarding Pass

Your boarding pass is a kind of ticket that you are given when you check in. It tells you your seat number, and you need to show it to the airline crew (the people working on the plane) when you try to get on the plane.


Your terminal is the area of the airport that you need to go to check in for your flight. Sometimes there are just two types of terminal: Arrivals and Departures. As you might expect, arrivals is where the people getting off planes come to – as in,the people who have just arrived. Departures is where you go when you are the person travelling, i.e  departing the airport. You might also see signs for Domestic and International terminals. Domestic means that you are flying to another city in the same country, while International means that you are flying to another country.

In a really big airport though, there can be lots of Departures Terminals. For example, London Heathrow Airport has five! Often, it takes a long time to move between one terminal and another, so make sure you go to the right one for your flight.


Your gate, or gate number, is the place you need to go to physically board (get on) the aeroplane. In a big airport, this will probably be a letter followed by a number, for example A12 or E3,

Go Through Security / Pass Through Security

This is where you go to have your bags checked, to make sure there is nothing dangerous or illegal inside. Here, you will asked to scan your bags (put them into an X-ray machine). You will also need put any liquids (things that are wet) into a see-through plastic bag and then scan this bag separately from your main bag.

Boarding Time

This is very important: it’s the time you need to be at the gate so that you can get on the plane. For international flights, the boarding time is usually around an hour before the flight leaves, so if your flight is at 3pm, your boarding time is around 2pm. It’s important not to get there late or you may find that your gate has closed and the staff won’t let you on the plane.


If you need to change flights somewhere, the amount of time you have to wait between flights is called a layover. For example, let’s say you are going on a trip from London to Vancouver but the flight is not direct because you have to get off at Reykjavik and wait five hours for your second flight to Vancouver. That means you have a layover of five hours.

Last Call

If you see the words ‘last call’ next to your flight number on the board, or you hear the announcer say ‘last call’ for your flight, that means that the gate is about to close. You need to get there really fast or you’ll miss it!

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