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35+ Code Words That Could Save You On An Airplane Emergency

Many of us head on vacation to enjoy some relaxing time. So what about when something happens? It turns out the crew have code words that passengers were never supposed to learn.


If you hear the phrase “pan-pan,” then it might be time to hold onto your seat just in case. This is a universal phrase that means that something urgent is happening in the vehicle, plane, or aircraft, but it’s not severe enough that it’s an emergency. Thankfully, this means that people’s lives aren’t in danger.

They just need others to know that there could be an emergency on their hands or they need someone to stand by just in case they need some repairs on their vessel. This means that emergency services can be there ready for when the aircraft lands or the ship docks compared to having to travel to the site for a rescue instead.


If there’s one thing that you probably don’t want to hear on your flight – especially if you have a fear of water – it’s the code word “ditch.” Yup, you guessed it, this means that you’re probably about to land on the water. Thankfully, there are so many safety procedures in place to make sure that people are kept as safe as possible.

Perhaps there’s a good reason to listen to all of those in-flight safety demonstrations after all? The phrase has been used so much over the years that it has even made its way into the dictionary. This will only be an option if there is nothing else the pilot can do.

Red parties

Hopefully, you won’t ever be close enough to see a red party for yourself. It is a strange code word and one that has got many people guessing over the years. Does it mean that someone is throwing the party of the century?

Maybe it’s a party with a strange dress code as everyone needs to wear red? While they might be good guesses, they are far from the truth. Hearing a “red party” means there is a fire somewhere on board the ship. The code word will typically be followed by the location of the fire so that everyone can get it put out before it becomes a danger.

Code one

It turns out that it’s not just planes and cruise ships that share code words. Trains also have a system of code words they share with other forms of transport. One that is used across all types of transportation is “code one.” This phrase means that someone is injured and they need medical attention.

It is more commonly used on trains, and cruise ships as people are often on them for longer and have more freedom to move around than people on planes. The crew just need some help or someone with first aid training to get to the scene as soon as they can to attend to the patient.

Five days in Denmark

While most of us want to keep ourselves to ourselves during our flight, others like to talk to others on the plane. So why do the flight attendants keep talking about their trip to Denmark when you’re not going there? Perhaps they are talking about somewhere else in the world, and you have no idea why?

It turns out it’s their code to speak to one another about passengers on the plane. The number of days is the row number of the passenger. The country, in this case, Denmark, marks the seat letter. So if you hear them talking about “five days in Denmark” and you’re in 5D, then you want to listen up.

Code red

While “code red” is one of the most serious warning codes that people can use on planes, the phrase often remains in the movies. That’s because it means the worst of the worst. If you are up in the sky and hear “code red,” then the chances are you will be landing pretty soon. Pilots will be allowed to land on most airstrips.

If they are over the ocean, then you might find yourself having a water landing instead. However, it is incredibly rare to hear this phrase. In fact, you are more likely to hear “code red” when you’re in the airport where there will be other safety procedures in place – but this is still very rare.

Last-minute paperwork

Believe it or not, but “last-minute paperwork” is a code word that is used to talk to passengers rather than to other members of the crew. This is used when the plane is delayed for one reason or another, but the team don’t want to tell passengers the real reason why.

This is usually because there is nothing to worry about. Delays are generally short and out of the way before people know it. It could be that there is an issue with the paperwork, the maintenance needs to work on something on the plane before it takes off, or they need to balance out the weight.

Priority one or priority two

Sometimes, captains prefer to use broader code words rather than having specialized phrases for each different incident. Captains of cruise ships often have a lot to think about during their time behind the wheel, and it can be tough to remember all the different phrases and what they could possibly mean.

That’s why some prefer to use “priority one” or “priority two” instead. “Priority one” usually means there is a fire on board the ship. “Priority two” indicates there is a leak somewhere instead. Thankfully, it’s not uncommon for boats to have small leaks while out at sea, but the crew are specially trained to take care of them before they become a major issue.

Mr. Sands

You might have to travel across the pond to hear this one, but “Mr. Sands” is a code phrase that is most commonly used on London Underground lines. It doesn’t mean they have Mr. Sandman on the journey or there is an important person with an unusual name, it actually means there is a threat on one of the underground trains or that a fire has broken out.

There is a good reason they use “Mr. Sand.” Fires were typically put out with sand as it smothered the flames before fire extinguishers took its place. Fun fact: English theaters also use the same codeword if a fire breaks out in the building.

Blue juice

Ah, flying. You can settle into your seat, watch some movies, and enjoy some delicious – kind of – food and beverages. It can be the perfect start or end to your vacation before you have to be a part of the real-world again. If you hear flight attendants talking about “blue juice” then have no fear; this isn’t a new drink that you’re missing out on.

They are actually talking about the bathroom. Yes, they usually don’t want to openly talk about a problem in the bathroom, so they decide to use code words instead. In fact, hearing “blue juice” might mean that you want to avoid taking a bathroom break anytime soon.

A host of sounds

As well as using code words, it appears as though crew also have a host of sounds they can use to communicate with one another. The great thing is that most people never think anything more of the sounds. If you’re coming in to land, have your seatbelt on, and hear one bell, this means the landing gear is being used.

The second indicates that the crew can get up from their seats to help passengers disembark. Three short bells tell the team they need to return to their seats for a message from the pilot, while five short bells warn the crew they need to perform an emergency evacuation.

Cabin crew, arm doors and cross-check

If you’ve ever been on a plane, then the chances are you have heard the phrase “cabin crew, arm doors and cross-check.” While it might sound like something from the military, it’s not as sinister as it first appears. The “arm doors” part of the phrase is to make sure that the door handles have been turned to the ‘armed’ position.

This means the slides will automatically inflate if the doors are opened and it needs to be in this position while the engines are running. The “cross-check” part of the phrase is to remind the cabin crew to check the doors in front of them.

Operation bright star

Cruise ships are pretty incredible. After all, they are just like floating cities that travel around the ocean, meaning they have everything they need to make sure people are cared for while they are away from home for weeks if not months at a time. So if you hear “operation bright star,” then it means the team are taking care of a passenger.

Someone is in need of emergency medical treatment, and all first aid trained staff in the area need to get there as soon as possible. You just have to hope you don’t hear “operation rising star” as this means that someone on the ship has passed away.

Mrs. Kate Fire Warning

A fire warning is a warning that is often used by American emergency services about wildfires in the area. So what about when it becomes part of a warning used on public transport instead? One passenger in Amsterdam was confused when they heard that “Mrs. Kate Fire Warning” needed to head to the front desk.

They asked the internet what it could mean, and many believe that it was a signal to security that there was an emergency – potentially a fire – that needed to be dealt with. Giving the warning a name hopefully meant that most people missed the warning, so they didn’t have to cope with widespread panic at the same time.


This is a phrase that many of us have heard over the years, but what does “mayday” actually mean? Hip captains or pilots will only use this phrase in the worst kind of emergencies. This is because they are worried that people could be about to use their lives. However, it’s not just captains and pilots that use “mayday.”

In many countries, the likes of transport organizations, police officers, and firefighters all use the phrase, too. Did you know it comes from the French phrase “Venez m’aider”? This means “come help me,” but that’s not all. People say the expression three times in a row so that it’s not confused with anything else.

Using numbers for codes

It turns out that being a part of the crew on a ship or plane has a lot more to learn than first meets the eye. The code 7,500 is a transponder code. This warns air traffic control towers that there is the threat of hijackers on the plane or that the plane has been taken over by someone else.

Another code is 7,600. This means there is a radio failure on the plane. Another code is 7,700 that is used as a general emergency code. Flight attendants also say they agree on a new secret code before each flight in case they need to warn the captain.

Purell, Purell, Purell

Some phrases are exclusively for ships, and “Purell, Purell, Purell” means you must be on a Celebrity cruise ship. The cruise liners use this phrase as a way to tell people there is someone has been unwell on the boat, and they need a cleanup crew ASAP. It’s repeated three times to make sure that no one misses the phrase.

They use “Purell” because this is a popular brand of sanitizer that is used by many people around the world. Sadly, seasickness is something that has dominated many people’s vacations over the years, and it’s someone’s unlucky job to clear it up.

Mr. Mob

It can be easy to get a little carried away with your time on a cruise ship. Sadly, some people have gone so over the top that they literally go too far – and end up falling overboard. This is a huge emergency and means that everyone needs to work together to make sure they are safely found and pulled back onto the ship.

People can easily get caught in the current or the wake of the ship and end up lost. Thankfully “Mr. Mob” warns the crew. It stands for “man overboard,” but that’s not the only phrase they use. Some ships will also use the phrase “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” if someone has fallen into the water.

Code blue

It’s not just forms of transport that have secret code phrases they use to talk to one another. Walmart is still the largest retail store company in the world – and they have got quite the lead in the competition. However, having so many stores across the nation and the world means they have written some code words of their own that all the staff need to know just in case.

“Code blue” is one of the many on the list. This means there is a chance that someone has an explosive in the store or one could have been planted. People need to quickly exit the building and call for emergency services.

Code green

There are many reasons that people head to Walmarts across the world. They often have great deals, and people can find themselves lost among the aisles for hours. Tragically, all of those transactions taking place each and every day means there is often a lot of money in each of the stores.

Plus, there can be many other reasons that people want to keep people as hostages. If you hear “code green” in one of Walmart’s stores, then it means that someone has been taken as a hostage and people need to find a way to help before anything happens.

Code red

Of course, an emergency in any kind of store means that people need to get out of the building and head to safety. Although many people never have to put their emergency training to use, all members of staff need to learn about what they need to do if something happens.

One of the many training procedures they go through is what to do in case of a fire. There will be special fire exits found across the store so that people can get outside as quickly as possible. Then, it’s down to the emergency services to tackle the blaze. “Code red” merely means the team need to put their fire training to use.

Code C

Not all code phrases mean something dangerous is about to happen. In fact, some are innocent and easier to say than having to call for people across the store. Take “code C.” This phrase means that someone else needs a member of the customer service team or a cashier to help them with an issue or a demanding customer.

Many of us have seen them. The ones that want to return an item even though they’ve had it for years or lost the receipt. How about the customer that wants a discount even though they have no coupons? If you hear a “code C” warning, then the chances are one of them is in the store.

Department 51 or code 300

Sometimes, those deals in Walmart are just too good that some people have lost their minds – or they have a built-up rage that is just waiting to burst out. Whatever the case, Walmart doesn’t want to become the next WWE ring and has plenty of members of security on hand to make sure that everyone is safe.

There appears to be no reason that the store uses two different code words to call their security team. Perhaps one means there is more of a danger? Whatever the case, calling for “department 51” or “code 300” means that security needs to get to the scene.

Code white

Some of us are a little more clumsy than others. “Code white” isn’t just reserved for customers. It’s also a code that is used if a member of staff needs some help or has knocked something off the shelf. It simply means there has been an accident that needs to be cleaned up ASAP.

The code phrase will typically be followed by where in the store needs to be cleared. Did you know that “code Adam” was actually thought up by Walmart? It tells others that there is a missing child. The phrase is now used by stores across the world as people need to be on the lookout for an unattended child.

Code orange

One of the many parts that comes with working at Walmart is making sure that everything is kept clean and hygienic at all times. The store also sells a host of cleaning products that could be split. If you hear “code orange,” then it means there have been chemicals split somewhere around the store.

This usually means that people need to bring a special set of cleaning products to make sure that everything is cleared up correctly as it could be dangerous. However, the staff are typically used to dealing with all kinds of situations and know how to keep everyone safe and get things back up and running without anyone getting into danger.

Code brown

If there is one thing that you don’t want to hear, it’s “code brown.” This is because it means there is someone with a weapon in the store, and they could be using it on people. In 2019, Walmart has come under questioning about their sales of guns or any ammunition.

They always followed the law that other stores have abided by over the years. However, their stores have been the target of some people. Walmart had already tightened its rules. In September 2019, it was announced that even more rules were in place as they have now banned the sale of many weapons as well as refusing to allow customers to carry one in their stores.

Code black

Many people make sure they have everything they need in case there is an emergency – especially if they know there is a weather warning on the way. Walmart is one of the many stores that have winter weather plans in place to try and make sure that everyone stays safe throughout the extreme weather.

This means stocking up on food and water as well as preparing the home with flashlights and blankets. However, “code black” means that extreme weather could be closer than many thought. This is usually a tornado, hurricane, tsunami, or any other disaster that could strike in a matter of moments.