Airline & Airport Terminology Glossary 102

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8/09/2008 – Airline & Airport Terminology Glossary 102

Airlines and Airports don’t only have whole language to themselves, they also have a series of acronyms that can often cause confusing among travelers. The acronyms can be even more complex once you enter the realm of international travel.

I can come up with dozens upon dozens of ‘alphabet soup’ abbreviations, however in this post I will stick to the most common ones you may hear as you walk through the airport.

ADASP: Aviation Direct Access Screening Program. This terminology refers to the TSA’s TSOs (yes these two initials will be defined in this post) who patrol airport aircraft gates, and those who screen airline & airport personnel within the airport as well as the cabins of the aircraft

BDO: Behavior Detection Officer. The TSA’s BDOs are tasked with detecting body language and human behaviour to aid in the screening of passengers passing through both security check points and the ‘general terminal’ area.

BAA (UK): British Airport Authority

CAA (UK) : Civil Aviation Authority

CBP: Customs & Boarder Protection. CBP handles immigrations and customs check-points upon entry into the United States.

DFS: Dual Function Screener. A DFS works both in passenger areas screening passengers and in the baggage area screening baggage.

DHS (US DHS): United States Department of Homeland Security

DOT (US DOT): United States Department of Transportation

ETD: Explosive Trace Detection. The ETD is used to check passengers for explosives at some security checkpoints

ETP: Explosive Trace Portal. The ETP is used to check passengers for explosives at some security checkpoints

FA: Flight Attendant

FAA: Federal Aviation Administration

FAM/FAMS: Federal Air Marshal/Federal Air Marshal Service

FFDO: Federal Flight Deck Officer. An FFDO is a Captain or First Officer who armed to defend to the flight deck.

FO: First Officer. The FO is second in command of the aircraft, in the right seat, with three stripes on their epaulets.

HHMD: Hand Held Metal Detector. The HHMD is used by TSA TSOs on passengers who have set off the walk through metal detector for secondary screening.

ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE is the investigative unit of the US DHS Immigrations & Customs branch.

ID: Identification

LEO: Law Enforcement Officer

MMW: Millimeter Wave Portal. The MMW is a walk-through security screener that sees through clothing. The MMW is often referred to as an ‘electronic strip search portal.’

NFL: No Fly List. The No Fly List is a DHS list of those who are believed to be a security risk and barred from flying on commercial aircraft. The NFL list is very controversial as multiple United States Senators, Congressmen and even Federal Air Marshals have found themselves on the NFL and unable to fly.

PIC: Pilot In Command. The PIC is usually the Captain.

POE: Port of Entry

SOP: Standard Operating Procedure

SPOT: Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique. TSA BDOs employ SPOT as part of their screening process.

SSSS: Secondary Security Screening Selection

TDC: Travel Document Checker. The TDC is often the first TSA Agent you encounter, as they check your identification and boarding pass before you move to the security checkpoint.

TSA: Transportation Security Administration

TSO: Transportation Security Officer. A TSO is the TSA Agent you encounter at the screening checkpoint.

WTMD: Walk Through Metal Detector

Hopefully these acronyms help sort the confusing series of letters that are commonly used in airports.

Happy Flying!



  1. ICE: Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE is the investigative unit of the US DHS Immigrations & Customs branch.

    A telling insight into the US-psyche: only the US DHS could call the investigative unit, Enforcement.

  2. Useful post. Pedant’s comment: BAA is the acronym for… BAA! The ‘British Airports Authority’ bit was dropped upon privatisation in the 1980s, and the company was incorporated as BAA.

    But it doesn’t really matter…

  3. Joel,

    Yea, BAA does not stand for “BAA” however it is helpful to know who the BAA is.

    It is much like BMI now just being “BMI” for all their marketing as they are not really focused on being “British Midland Airways” any longer with their primary hub being LHR

    Happy Flying!

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