The Basics

Calling Airlines Right Now? Here is the Alphabet That Will Make the Call Easier

Written by Charlie

It takes long enough to get a hold of the airlines right now, so here is an alphabet that will make the call itself quicker and easier to understand!

If you had any travel in the next few months, chances are you are talking to (or trying to) an airline call center. Thankfully, there are some tips to get a hold of them easier – found right here! – but if you do get a hold of them, you want it to go quickly. Record locators and names are easily confused so that is why we have something called the Phonetic Alphabet to help us universally. Here you go!

Uniform Sierra Echo   Tango Hotel India Sierra 🙂

In case you can’t get that, read through the alphabet below and then bookmark it for your next phone call to the airlines!

The English language alphabet that we (and many companies around the world) use is one that has several of our 26 letters sounding like each other – especially over the phone or radio. To help with that, the “phonetic alphabet” was developed so that we could accurately give the letters we want and they would be understood universally. If you are calling airlines to book tickets, you should definitely learn the phonetic alphabet!

What is the Phonetic Alphabet and Why You May Need It

My family always looks at me like some kind of nerd when I start saying something like, “Papa, India, Tango” when I am on the phone with an airline agent. In case, you don’t know, that is what the phonetic use of the alphabet looks like for saying “P-I-T”, or the airport code for Pittsburgh, PA. Thanks to getting into Amateur Radio when I was 12, that alphabet has been imbedded in my head for a long time! 🙂

This alphabet is important to learn so that you can more easily prevent mistakes when on the phone booking a ticket. Letters like “C” and “E” or “B” and “D” can sound enough alike over the phone so that instead of getting a ticket with your correct name on it, it could be quite a bit different! Even worse, imagine if you have a ticket to a completely different city than you had planned to travel to! 🙂

What Is the Phonetic Alphabet?

So, bookmark this post and get ready to learn the phonetic alphabet so you can sound like a nerd on your next phone call to an airline also!

  • A = Alpha (technically, it is Alfa on the list)
  • B = Bravo
  • C = Charlie
  • D = Delta
  • E = Echo
  • F = Foxtrot
  • G = Golf
  • H = Hotel
  • I = India
  • J = Juliet (technically, it is Juliett on the list)
  • K = Kilo
  • L = Lima
  • M = Mike
  • N = November
  • O = Oscar
  • P = Papa
  • Q = Quebec
  • R = Romeo
  • S = Sierra
  • T = Tango
  • U = Uniform
  • V = Victor
  • W = Whiskey
  • X = X-ray
  • Y = Yankee
  • Z = Zulu

There are some that have secondary names – like Mexico, Radio, Zebra – but it is generally best to stick with this list. While you may know enough names that you could just use people’s names for the whole list, it is important to use these internationally recognized ones as much as you can remember. This is due to the fact that these words will be familiar to many agents that have English as a secondary (or third, fourth, etc) language and it will make the process to go easier.

I mean, if you dive into award program charts and maps already to find the best deals, why not go full geek next time you call that airline to book some obscure award? 🙂

Thanks to reader RetiredATLATC for adding along the following:

  • Character Word Pronunciation
  • 0 Zero ZE−RO
  • 1 One WUN
  • 2 Two TOO
  • 3 Three TREE
  • 4 Four FOW−ER
  • 5 Five FIFE
  • 6 Six SIX
  • 7 Seven SEV−EN
  • 8 Eight AIT
  • 9 Nine NIN−ER
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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • LOL that you think this will help. Once on a call with an airline I used the phonetic alphabet to spell my last name just to have the rep question and ask if i meant it with different (non phonetic representations). I thought I was doing a favor, having learned the phonetic alphabet in college in ROTC…guess not!

    • Sorry it didn’t work out for you! There are sometimes where a rep has no clue but most of the time, it has helped me. Especially with foreign call centers.

  • Here is my version of the alphabet that works:

    C= SEE like in seed
    I = EYE like in eyeball
    J = Jay like in genuine
    K = Kay like in cape
    L = EL like in elephant
    M= Em like in Embassy
    N= En like in End of the year
    R= Arr like in Armour
    S = Ess like in essence
    U = You like in yourself
    W = Doubleu like in double
    X= Ex like in exactly
    Y= Why like in wine

    It works and usually gets me a first-class upgrade for free! Not!