kittipong-kongwatmai/ShutterstockIf you’re a frequent flyer, you might have grown accustomed to (and honestly slept through!) the various sounds that chime overhead on an airplane. But what do all those pings mean, anyway? Turns out, you should really be paying more attention to the signals—and here’s why.
The dings and pings will typically let you know when you should stay seated and when you can move around the cabin. (And make sure you follow these etiquette rules when you do so.) But airline crews also use the sounds to communicate with each other, People reports. Mental Floss calls the airplane chimes “a Morse code of sorts” for the captain and flight attendants “to alert each other to issues big and small.” Interesting, sure… but now we want to break the code.
Thankfully, Qantas Airways divulged the code they used on their flights last year. If you hear a high-low “ding-dong” chime on a Qantas plane, you’ll know that the staff wants to get each other’s attention. But don’t worry: These calls are usually made for non-emergencies, like checking to see if the other side of the cabin has soda or pretzel refills.
On the other hand, captain or crew members use a triple low chime for priority messages like warning the flight attendants of bumpy skies ahead. That way, they can begin locking up their snack carts before the announcement is made to the rest of the passengers.
But no two airlines use the same chiming system; it’s just the standard one for Qantas Airways. Retired U.S. Airways captain John Cox gave his own inside scoop in a blog post for USA Today. According to him, two airplane chimes on a U.S. Airways flight signal that the plane is approaching 10,000 feet. Three or more chimes could indicate that there is a sick passenger in need of medical attention. And one chime can warn flight attendants of turbulence ahead—or that the plane captains would like a cup of coffee.
Ready for your next trip in the sky? Check out even more things your flight attendant won’t tell you.