This Is What Those Pings on an Airplane Really Mean

Learn the secret language to know what’s going on during your flight.

call button on airplane things that horrify flight attendants
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If you've flown in the last few decades, you're well aware of the fact that the modern airplane is basically a giant, noisy R2-D2, constantly sending out a stream of dings, pings, and chimes—seemingly at random moments during your journey. Takeoff? (Ping!) Turbulence? (Ping!) Landing? (Ping!) Or any time your aircraft is cruising at 38,000 feet? (Ping!) The question remains: What are those noises you constantly hear ringing overhead?

Well, the truth is, pilots and flight attendants rely on this simple system of bells and whistles to communicate on board. If you've ever wondered what exactly they're saying, read on—because here we've decoded their secret language.

1
"Pick up the phone."

pilot talking on intercom
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During the flight, the crew is obviously separated: the pilots are in the cockpit, while flight attendants are spread across multiple galleys in the front, middle, or rear of the aircraft. As you can imagine, this makes it a little difficult for everyone to communicate. As such, there are telephones spread throughout the plane that connect crew members in different parts of the plane, but they don't actually ring to indicate that someone's calling. In order to get the attention of crew members in a different part of the aircraft, pilots and flight attendants often use a two-tone chime to alert one another to pick up the phone.

2
"You've reached 10,000 feet."

plane window hole flying facts
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Although cruising altitude is usually above 30,000 feet, a chime will often ring when the plane reaches 10,000 feet, indicating that it's safe for passengers to move about the cabin, and the crew can start getting ready for service. It's also a signal that the WiFi should be working shortly, so you're allowed to turn on your electronics again.

3
"Fasten seatbelts, please."

seatbelt sign on airplane things that horrify flight attendants
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A single tone accompanied by the illumination of the fasten-seatbelt light above your seat indicates just what you'd expect—you better buckle up. And when the light is turned off, you'll hear another chime, and you can safely unfasten your belt once more. (Though, you should always keep it on while seated!) The pilot controls these signals from the cockpit, and they're used during take-off, landing, and turbulence.

4
"I need assistance."

flight attendant talking to man
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Pressing the button to call a flight attendant to your seat triggers both auditory (a quiet bell) and visual cues (a light above you and one in the galley) to alert the crew which seat and passenger is asking for help.

5
"We've arrived."

an airplane parked right outside of an airport terminal
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After landing, passengers and crew are to remain seated until the plane is safely parked at the gate. Although you're probably itching to unbuckle your seatbelt, grab your bag from the overhead compartment, and dart to your destination, you should remain buckled until the plane stops moving and you hear a final ding—that's the captain letting you know that your ride is officially over.

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