A guide to understanding common cabin crew phrases

Understanding Cabin Crew Speak: From CJO’s to Attestations

When you enter the world of aviation, you will be greeted with a host of unfamiliar terms. For those browsing flight attendant job adverts or forums, or simply listening to friends in the industry, it can seem like cabin crew are speaking a different language!

From CJO’s to attestations… this blog post will clear up some unusual terms and acronyms. What is a Purser anyway? Let’s decode some of the most common flight attendant terms and explore what they actually mean.

What is the difference between flight attendants and cabin crew?

One of the most common questions we get asked is — what the difference is between flight attendants and cabin crew? In short, there is no difference! Male or female, the terms are interchangeable and refer to the same job, but vary in popularity around the world.

In Europe, it is more common to use the term cabin crew. In America, it is more common to use the term flight attendant. However, both terms are now significantly more common than the older expressions, Air hostess, and Steward.

Flight attendant vs cabin crew is used interchangeably depending on location

Cabin crew may also be referred to as Purser or Head Flight Attendant, bringing us nicely onto our next most frequently asked question…

What is a Purser? (Flight attendants)

Purser is the name given to the most senior member of cabin crew on board, and is responsible for the running of the cabin. Sometimes known as Cabin Managers, Pursers will liaise with the Captain on all matters relating to the cabin, coordinate with ground staff during boarding and disembarkation, and ensure that safety procedures are followed in an emergency.

During the flight, they will be responsible for managing any customer service issues — hello drunk passengers! — and ensuring that everyone is comfortable. The Purser will also oversee the work of junior members of cabin crew.

Pursers — a naval background

Like many aviation related items, the term ‘purser’ has maritime origins. Dating back to the 1800s, naval pursers were responsible for handling money onboard.

Even now, merchant shipping pursers still retain very similar job descriptions as cabin crew pursers. Onboard ships, pursers are liaising with many staff groups as they are responsible for administration duties such as passenger lists, alongside food supplies.

What is a CJO flight attendant?

This flight attendant term is most commonly used in the United States. CJO stands for conditional job offer. CJO flight attendants have passed the airline interview stage, receiving an acceptance letter for the job as cabin crew, but are yet to begin employment.

Conditional simply means with strings attached:

  • Due to the cyclical nature of the airline industry, airlines often interview for crew months before they are required.
  • This could be anticipating a busy summer, or for a fleet expansion.
  • For many reasons; such as aircraft deliveries being delayed, unexpected industry downturns, or even flight attendants gaining a criminal record, this job offer may later be revoked.

What is cabin crew attestation?

Cabin crew attestation — known as a Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency in the USA — is a certificate attained during the initial process of becoming a cabin crew member. To work as a flight attendant, you will need to have a valid certificate of attestation, to prove you have completed the relevant safety training required.

The certificate of attestation is issued by an approved training organisations, certified by aviation regulators such as EASA or the FAA, and proves that you have successfully completed all the necessary training requirements. It has a 5-year expiry from your last flight.

It is important to note that not all airlines require a certificate of attestation — you will simply have to undergo new entrant cabin crew training to obtain one. However, a certificate of attestation is always good to have as it demonstrates proficiency in the role of cabin crew, and minimises airlines training costs. This often means airlines prioritise cabin crew with a valid attestation over other candidates when applying for jobs.

What is deadheading flight attendant?

Deadheading is an aviation term sometimes known as positioning.

This is where a crew member is travelling on a flight either to or from work, but isn’t actually working as a flight attendant on that sector — e.g. because the company needs them in a specific location.

This situation usually occurs due to sickness, last-minute changes, or rostering anomalies.

Deadheading flight attendant as a passenger

Deadheading example:

  • As a flight attendant, you have flown to a destination on a B787, and will operate the return flight the following day.
  • Due to a last-minute change in aircraft from a B787 to an A350, the following day’s flight will now be carried out by a different type of aircraft you are not trained to operate.
  • The roster will be switched to deadheading, to return home from work for their next duty
  • The flight attendants deadheading will be flying as passengers, but they are on the request of their employer — so, technically, are still at work and the tickets are being paid by the airline


So, there you have it! A quick guide to some of the most common terms used by cabin crew. Most terms are deceptively simple once you find out what they stand for, but there is a love of acronyms in aviation which can keep many people guessing.

  • Flight attendants and cabin crew are interchangeable terms
  • Pursers are the lead flight attendant
  • CJO flight attendant means an FA with a conditional job offer
  • Cabin crew attestation is the certificate issued once you have passed training
  • Deadheading means flying as a passenger while at work

We hope this has cleared up any confusion. Please let us know if there are any additional cabin crew terms you would like covered!

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Flyingbynumber’s Resident Senior Flight Attendant — Alissa

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