What do you call people who travel in a plane?

I know "passenger" is appropriate but that is also true for travelling in taxis, trains, ships, and buses. Also, a passenger suggests someone who has paid for their ticket and is already seated.

Is there an expression, phrase or single-word that describes people who frequently travel by plane, be it for business or pleasure? Would flight traveller or plane traveller be easily understood?

Sample sentence:

Sixty years ago, no _________ would have believed a flight to a European city could cost less than a return trip by train.

P.S I found the answer (it was among my suggestions) but I liked the question too much to delete it.

  • 5
    I think simple traveller would work better in your sample sentence than a word that specifically refers to someone who takes planes because a traveller may weigh the relative cost of plane vs train but an air traveller is an air traveller is an air traveller. And I'm curious, are European return trips cheaper than the cost of getting there? Couldn't you always say at the ticket counter "I'd like a return trip to Pisa"? ;-)
    – TimR
    Apr 10 at 14:40
  • Alternatively it might be better to rephrase like "Sixty years ago, not even the most frequent flyer (or traveler) would have believed a flight to a European city could cost less than a return trip by train." This emphasises the idea that the more you fly the more you know about flying. But I kind of agree that a flyer might have no clue about the cost of a train, so you might substitute "traveler".
    – Stuart F
    Apr 10 at 16:32
  • @TimR Could you undelete your answer, please. You make a strong case in favour of the single word "traveller". As for the phrasing I did my best to keep it short and sweet. I was afraid someone would quibble with the claim instead your interpretation is one that would not have occurred to me. But you're absolutely right. Sigh...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 10 at 20:13
  • Just client since the rest is given. Apr 11 at 10:47
  • 1
    Not to be disagreeable, but as an AmEng native, I don't see any correlation between passenger and payment status or current seating. (I believe boarding passes often list, "passenger name," regardless if the ticket was paid-for. When paging for immediate seating, they will ask by passenger, implying those who are not already seated are still passengers.) Given this, your own answer, passenger, could be a perfectly good one. Apr 11 at 16:27

7 Answers 7


I personally find

air traveller

more elegant than “plane” traveller, and it’s difficult to argue the need to differentiate between planes and helicopters. A Google ngram comparison shows my preference dominated the later half of the 20th century (which may be why I prefer it) but “plane” has more recently overtaken it. (Although the results look suspicious as total usage has fallen.)

Oh, “flight traveller” doesn’t even register.

  • 8
    My first thought was airline passenger. Ngrams shows that this was common from the 1940s onwards, but usage began to decrease after 2004. I'm showing my age, I suppose. Apr 10 at 12:41
  • 1
    @KateBunting — That also came to mind, and now you mention it a thought occurs to me. An article in, say the FT, comparing the financial situation of Ryanair and EasyJet is more likely to talk about passenger numbers, whereas one comparing rail, road and air would probably refer to passengers. Usage depends on context to a degree.
    – David
    Apr 10 at 13:01
  • @KateBunting — I didn’t pick up on airline. Yes, that was common at one time, especially airline pilot.
    – David
    Apr 11 at 0:31

Frequent Flyer is a good label.

Cambridge Dictionary online show:

a person who often travels by plane, especially someone who usually uses the same airline and belongs to that airline's club, which provides them with special advantages such as free flights.

"We are continually looking to offer our frequent flyers an upgraded experience."

  • 9
    This is the term that would most readily occur to most people, but it should be acknowledged that this is only because it is widely used by airlines in the contexts that have to to do with their frequent flyer programmes. The term did not arise through spontaneous development of the language, and we rarely use flyer for somebody who travels by plane in other contexts.
    – jsw29
    Apr 10 at 14:41
  • 6
    This is the perfect answer to the question title, but slightly less of a good fit to the full question, especially its example sentence.
    – PLL
    Apr 10 at 21:23

Here is a term that seems to have been replaced in part by the term "glitterati" (which is free of the emphasis on the mode of travel). Given the modern democratization of air travel, there has arisen a new class of air travelers that use airliners frequently and who are not so wealthy; perhaps a new term exists already to refer to those, or more generally to all air travelers, but jet-setters do use airplanes frequently.

(Cambridge Dictionary) jet-setter noun [ C ] informal uk /ˈdʒetˌset.ər/ us /ˈdʒetˌset̬.ɚ/

a member of the jet set

Travel expert, blogger, jet-setter and bon vivant, who travels around the world discovering what's new and cool about luxury travel and hospitality...

jet set the jet set
noun [S, + sing/pl verb] informal uk /ˈdʒet ˌset/ us /ˈdʒet ˌset/

rich, fashionable people who travel around the world enjoying themselves

(Wikipedia) Jet set is a term for an international social group of wealthy people who travel the world to participate in social activities unavailable to ordinary people. The term, which replaced "café society", came from the lifestyle of travelling from one stylish or exotic place to another via jet plane. With the democratization of air travel it has been replaced at least in part by the term "glitterati", reflecting a greater emphasis upon celebrity, including "being seen" and stalked by paparazzi, and less upon mode of travel.

  • 6
    As the quotations make clear, the meaning of this term mostly concerns the social status; not the mere fact of travelling by plane. It has by now become somewhat old-fashioned, as it evokes the era when air travel was fare less affordable than it is now.
    – jsw29
    Apr 10 at 12:47
  • @jsw29 Still, a travel expert and blogger, that is, no one who can be said to belong to the filthy rich, is being referred to as a jet-setter in the example shown in the Cambridge dictionary.
    – LPH
    Apr 10 at 12:55
  • I don't think that the quotation implies that all travel experts/bloggers are jet setters.
    – jsw29
    Apr 10 at 14:26
  • 1
    "What do you call people who travel in a plane?" Not a jet setter.
    – Lambie
    Apr 11 at 15:35
  • I agree with @jsw. It's not saying that all those descriptions are equivalent, it's saying that the person in question happens to be all of them. They could just as well have included "bridge player" in the list.
    – Barmar
    Apr 11 at 17:01

Is being a plane traveler a pre-requisite for the label you wish to achieve?

Your sentence would easily make sense like this:

Sixty years ago, no consumer would have believed a flight to a European city could cost less than a return trip by train.

You don't have to be a plane traveler to appreciate economic efficiencies.


I suspect "globetrotter" might fit, even though the provided definition "a person who travels widely" doesn't specifically call out air travel. The set of people who are likely to be called "globetrotters" who do not travel by air on a regular basis is likely vanishingly small.


"seasoned traveller" is also used for someone who is used to taking long-distance journeys. Here "seasoned" means "experienced", as in someone who has a lot of experience doing something


no one who flew

While not a single word or compound noun answer, may I suggest an idiomatic way of rephrasing the example sentence in the post using a noun phrase:

Sixty years ago, no one who flew would have believed a flight to a European city could cost less than a return trip by train.


Alternatively you could use the noun flyer.


a person who travels by air

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