The Basics

What is the Phonetic Alphabet and Why You May Need it For Airline Tickets

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Written by Charlie

“Alpha, Bravo, Charlie…” What is the phonetic alphabet? This post will help you to learn it and to show you why you should know it when you call 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? 🙂

Edit: Thanks to RetiredATLATC in the comments 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

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.

6 Comments

  • 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

    • Thank you for that addition! I will throw that in as well! I rarely had to give it since my amateur radio call sign had a “2” since I was from NY.

      • Here’s the whole list from the FAA 7110.65 (the ATC “bible”.

        TBL 2−4−1
        ICAO Phonetics
        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
        A Alfa ALFAH
        B Bravo BRAHVOH
        C Charlie CHARLEE
        D Delta DELLTAH
        E Echo ECKOH
        F Foxtrot FOKSTROT
        G Golf GOLF
        H Hotel HOHTELL
        I India INDEE AH
        J Juliett JEWLEE ETT
        K Kilo KEYLOH
        L Lima LEEMAH
        M Mike MIKE
        N November NOVEMBER
        O Oscar OSSCAH
        P Papa PAHPAH
        Q Quebec KEHBECK
        R Romeo ROWME OH
        S Sierra SEEAIRAH
        T Tango TANGGO
        U Uniform YOUNEE FORM
        V Victor VIKTAH
        W Whiskey WISSKEY
        X X−ray ECKSRAY
        Y Yankee YANGKEY
        Z Zulu ZOOLOO
        NOTE−
        Syllables to be emphasized in pronunciation are in bold

        Side note, at ATL we used DIXIE instead of DELTA so as not to be confused with the airline.

        • Good thinking on “D”! I am fortunate that my name is a phonetic – yet I still have agents asking me to spell it out phonetically 🙂

  • Most of us pronounce Quebec as kwe BECK, but in the phonetic alphabet it is pronounced (like RetiredATLATC indicated above) keh beck…no “w” sound.

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