English learning advice from Aviation English Asia.

A look at grammar and beyond to help communicate with the English-speaking passenger

Written by Michael McBride

In this article, specifically for cabin crew, you will learn different ways to communicate offers of service to passengers (food/drinks etc), dealing with formality/informality and different verb uses.  Also, you will be able to practice using video/image excerpts and advice for your future cabin crew English training.

Grammar focus – form and register

Although regarded by some people as a difficult area, grammar forms the building blocks of any language and once you have got a range of good grammatical phrases/expressions you can be confident in your job.  Hopefully what you learn in this article will be developed with further training, as learning English is an on going process.  Now looking at the words above in the subtitle…

Form relates to how something is constructed, for example we form regular past tense verbs using verb + ed, or modal verbs using modal (can/could etc) + verb infinitive.  Obviously connected with this should be meaning, otherwise why bother saying it?

Register refers to how formal or informal something is.  This can be expressed using different forms, and context (where something is said) plays a major part of this.  It can include the usual polite exchanges, such as please and thank you, but even this has different registers: “thanks” vs. “thank you very much.”  You can also change register with verbs, which is the main focus of this section.

Grammar and offering service on-board

As a member of cabin crew, you have to make passengers feel comfortable and provide a service, from offering drinks and food to helping them with their bags or opening an overhead compartment.  These expressions might include: –

  • Can I help you with your bags?
  • Do you want me to do that for you?
  • Can I get you a drink?  Here you go, thanks.

The above offers of service are clear and direct English, but to add a higher register and feeling of added politeness you could change the above with the following.

Could (modal) + verb infinitive

Would + Like instead of Do You

Thank You

Sir/Madam (especially in business class and on flagship airlines e.g. Cathay Pacific.)

How would you change those offers of service?


You should have something similar to this: –

  • Could I help/assist you with your bags, sir/madam?
  • Would you like me to help you with that?
  • Could I offer you a drink, sir/madam?  Here you go/are, thank you.

Credit www.ibtstw.org

Modal verbs (can, could, would, should etc) will be very useful for your cabin language repertoire and they are easy to use because the form is always modal + verb infinitive.  You can change them to suit context and register and the degree of something, for example, “should” is a stronger suggestive modal than “could”.

Also notice that the verb infinitive can also be made more formal and courteous, for example, get -> offer.  It would be useful to have a range of both register forms depending on your airline’s needs.  Your instructor at Aviation English Asia will help you develop and understand these verb forms further.

Put it into practice

Visual exercise

Now you have the opportunity to role-play cabin crew scenarios using a range of media.  With the picture below answer the following questions: –

  1. What is happening?
  2. What part of the flight could it be?
  3. What do you think the cabin attendant is saying?
  4. What do you think the passenger is saying before and afterwards?
  5. Who else could be involved in the communication?

Credit http://flightglobal.com

Do the same checklist of questions for the following scenarios: –

  • A passenger is having difficulty storing their bag in the overhead compartment
  • In the first class cabin, the passenger is trying to open up their flatbed.
  • A child passenger has just vomited in their seat

Video exercise

The following video link should act as a further role-play situation.  Pretend you are the cabin attendant and passenger, write down a list of questions and answers you expect.  What polite register language would you use?  You could also predict unusual actions for example, the passenger drops the glass of juice, what ‘offer of service’ language could you use?

Serving drinks
Credit – “primaseason”

Advice for training and practice

For further training you need to first evaluate your English skills.  However, if you can understand a lot of this article you are probably an intermediate user so “In-Flight English” with Aviation English Asia is a good choice for you.  The course allows you to improve your English while at the same time exploring and debating incidents that can affect cabin crew members.  You will go beyond grammar forms by putting language into context and practicing the English skills needed to become a cabin attendant.  There are also options for you to gain certification for your language ability from Cambridge ESOL, which will help you gain new positions or enhance your current position.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for special offers and details of courses in your area.

  1. gokul sapkale

    it’s nice thank you for advice me…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: