Fixing Flight Attendant Faux Pas

Every time I fly, I hear flight attendants using words in ways that no doubt cause my freshman English teacher Mrs. Prosser to roll over in her grave.

Flight attendants regularly – and apparently unknowingly – use the wrong words during their cabin announcements. As homage to my gray-haired, grandmotherly grammarian, I intend to help them fix their foibles.

Flight attendant faux pas often begin even before take-off when they announce that “we will have an extremely full flight.” The term “full” is an absolute; either a container has additional capacity or it does not. If every seat will be occupied, the plane is simply “full.” (One might also accept “completely full” for its additional emphasis, but “extremely” is just plain wrong.) While a flight may be “oversold” because the airline sold more tickets than there are seats, I have yet to be on a flight where a passenger occupies one of the overhead luggage bins or where more than one person is stuffed into a seat (though I’ve occasionally felt like it).

Flight attendants often announce that the plane will be taking off or landing “momentarily.”
“Momentarily” means “FOR a moment,” implying that the plane is either going to take off, then land in short order or perhaps that the pilot intends to practice touch-and-go landings. The term for which they’re grasping is “IN a moment.”

Toward the end of the flight, I’ve heard them announce that the captain has turned on the seat belt sign and that passengers must remain in their seats “for the duration of the flight.” The word “duration” means “the length of.” As the majority of the flight has already passed, they mean – and should say – the “remainder” of the flight.

If these terms are scripted into cabin announcements by the individual airlines, I respectfully suggest they consult their resident grammar gurus and correct these butcheries of the English language. If, on the other hand, the language was scripted by some bureaucrat and mandated by the FAA, then the airlines have my understanding as well as my complete sympathy. Even Mrs. Prosser understood, “You can’t fight city hall.”

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