There are few phobias more common than a fear of flying, but even if you don’t consider yourself an anxious flyer, it’s easy to get spooked when you’re on a plane. A moment of heavy turbulence can send even the most experienced flyer into a sudden panic. Fortunately, there are signs to look out for when it comes to actual in-air emergencies. A flight attendant just warned passengers that there is one sound in particular that might signal trouble ahead. Read on to find out what you should listen for on your next flight.
Flight attendant Tommy Cimato recently informed passengers about the high-low chime sounds that you hear on flights in a TikTok video posted Nov. 14, which has already been viewed more than 6 million times. According to Cimato, three of these chime sounds could be a signal for trouble.
“If you hear three of those [sounds] it means it’s an emergency,” he warned. But Cimato also said that it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear three chimes in a row on one of your flights.
Multiple chimes could indicate different types of issues, many of which might be less worrisome for you. John Cox, a flight captain, told USA Today in 2012 that three or more chimes have also been used before to warn flight attendants to sit immediately when pilots have just received sudden reports of turbulence.
According to Cox, three chimes could be a single to the flight deck that there is a passenger with a medical problem that might require a diversion of the plane as well. “I would not automatically draw the conclusion that more chimes indicate a serious problem,” he said.
Only three chimes are likely to signal a major problem or emergency. Cimato said one or two chimes usually mean something different. According to the flight attendant, one chime tone tends to be a call from a traveler. “A passenger is calling one of the flight attendants from their seat or they could be calling from the lavatory,” he said.
And two chimes, or one high and then low chime, is usually just a simple form of communication for the flight crew. “A high-low chime means one flight attendant is trying to call another flight attendant, or the flight deck is trying to call us,” Cimato explained.
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You’re likely to hear some kind of chime when you’re flying with any airline. According to The Points Guy, most airlines use a chime sound in order for the airline crew to communicate throughout the plane, but they might not all mean the same thing. In a 2016 blog post, Qantas revealed the purpose of its various chimes, but not all airlines are eager to explain what their individual sounds mean. JetBlue, Delta, and American all confirmed their usage of chimes to The Points Guy, but declined to share details for security reasons.
“Think of it as a language between the pilots and flight attendants,” Southwest spokeswoman Thais Hanson told The Points Guy in 2019. “A chime also accompanies the lighting or extinguishing of a sign; for example, when the seatbelt sign goes off and customers are able to move about cabin to use the facilities or stretch their legs, this will be indicated by a chime. While I can’t share all of our chime combinations and meanings, [the sounds] are used to signal to both flight crews and customers that an action is needed or has occurred.”