A glossary of aviation terms

Do you know the meaning of codeshare, and that there is actually a difference between non-stop and direct flights? Here you can learn the most common aviation terms and their meaning.

aviation terms

The aviation world is packed with terms describing the business and way of traveling – in this guide we have broken down some of the most common terms.


An airline is a company that offers regular air transport services, either for passengers or for goods. Some of the biggest airlines in the world are American Airlines, China Southern Air Holding and Delta Air Lines. Many airlines have formed alliances that enable them to cooperate – the three biggest alliances in the world are Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld.

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.


The aviation world is full of alliances and cooperations. A codeshare agreement means that two or more airlines work together and offer seats on each other’s flights. Each flight is operated by one carrier, and the cooperating airlines can sell seats on the flight and assign it their own flight number.

Do you want to learn more about codeshare? Take a look at our guide by following the link below.

More about codeshare


Choosing a connecting flight means that you will reach your destination through two or more flights. This means that you will land and change aircraft at least once during your flight. In some cases you need to move between terminals at the connecting airport, and you might need to re-check your luggage.

Direct flight

A direct flight normally means that you reach your destination without having to make any stops along the way. Though in some cases a direct flight might mean that you will land to refuel or to pick up more passengers. If you want to be completely sure that you won’t have to make any pit stops along the way, you should look for a flight labeled non-stop. Here you can read more about the differences between direct and non-stop flights.

Flight leg

A flight leg is a non-stop flight between two airports. In other words, your itinerary can be divided into several flight legs before you arrive at the final destination.

Flight length

The flight length is the distance of a route, usually measured in miles or kilometers. A flight is normally defined as long-, medium- or short haul. The length of the different hauls can differ between different airlines/alliances. For example, American Airlines defines the hauls by distance – a short- or medium haul is less than 3000 miles, while long-haul flights are more than 3000 miles. An example of a long-haul flight is between Los Angeles Airport and London Heathrow Airport.

Many others actually define the hauls by the flight time. 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.

Flight number

Every flight has its own specific flight number. The number consists of the airline’s two character IATA code and a digit number with up to four digits. How the digits are chosen varies a lot between different airlines. Normally a flight headed east or north is assigned even numbers, while south and westbound flights have odd numbered codes.

Flight time

The flight time is the duration of a flight, measured in hours and minutes. For example, the flight time between New York (JFK) and Charles de Gaulle (CDG) in Paris is between 7 and 7.5 hours, depending on the airline.


IATA (International Air Transport Association) is a global association of the airlines in the world. About 300 airlines are members of IATA, which is more than 80 per cent of the air traffic in the world. The purpose of the organization is to provide efficient service for the airlines and its passengers.

Non-stop flight

A non-stop flight is exactly what the term sounds like – with this option you reach your final destination without any pit stops. This is the most convenient option to choose when it’s time to travel by air.


Transit flight is another term for connecting flight, meaning it’s the opposite of a non-stop flight. If you choose a transit flight you can have one or more stops along the way.