English: Flight 1234 (reading flight numbers)
French: Vol 1234
Here’s a short lesson on how to read numbers in French, more specifically flight numbers. You can readily learn how to read numbers in French with the help of other online resources, or from other French courses, but most others will not point out the few particularities in reading flight numbers in French.
Technically, flight numbers are assigned to the movement of an aircraft, from the moment it leaves its departure gate, to the moment it parks at its arrival gate. Each flight number for each airline is unique on every given calendar day, and it’s how everyone (the airline, air traffic control, pilots, and passengers) tracks the movement of this plane. Flight numbers usually range from 1 to 9999.
Flight numbers from 1 to 99 are read as you’d expect.
Flight one=Vol un
Flight thirty-one=Vol trente et un
Flight ninety-nine=Vol quatre-vingts dix-neuf
French flight numbers in the hundreds are more or less as expected as well. (100-999)
Flight one hundred and three (flight one oh three)=Vol cent trois
Flight three hundred and fifty (flight three fifty)=Vol trois cent cinquante
Flight nine hundred and ninety-nine (flight nine ninety nine)=Vol neuf cent quatre-vingts dix-neuf
Just notice in French, we simply say “cent” and not “un cent” for “one hundred”.
For numbers in the thousands, in English we tend to say “flight twelve thirty-four” (1234), or “flight seventy-five sixty-two” (7562), dividing up the first two digits and the last two. It’s certainly not wrong to say “flight one thousand two hundred and thirty-four” (1234) but it’s uncommon to hear four-digit flight numbers read like this in English. However in French, this is the standard way to read flight numbers, and this is how your airline will want you to read them. “Vol mille deux cents trente-quatre” (1234). “Vol sept mille cinq cents soixante-deux’’ (7562). Notice again that we say ‘’mille’’ and not ‘’un mille’’ for ‘’one thousand’’.
However, you will hear your francophone colleagues read them by dividing the first two digits and the last two digits just like in English. “Vol douze trente-quatre” (1234). “Vol soixante-quinze soixante-deux” (7562). Though very common, this is sometimes not the best way to read flight numbers in French. For example, the number 70 in Canadian French is “soixante dix”, literally “sixty ten”, and the number 90 in Canadian French is “quatre-vingt dix”, literally “eighty ten”, or even more literally “four-twenty ten”. So if you have a flight number like 8010 and you read it by dividing up the first two digits and the last two like this, you’d read “quatre-vingt dix”, which is exactly how you’d also read the number 90, making it ambiguous. Reading 8010 as “huit mille dix” makes it unambiguous.
Another option is to read the digits individually. Formally, airlines prefer that you don’t do this. However, we understand that reading large numbers can be difficult and confusing for beginners, and we feel this option is a much simpler alternative in the interim.
For four-digit numbers, this is fine.
Flight 1234=Vol un deux trois quatre
Flight 8010=Vol huit zéro un zéro
For three-digit numbers, reading individual digits isn’t preferred, but should be acceptable for beginners while you work on learning to read numbers in the hundreds.
Flight 849=Vol huit quatre neuf, vol huit cents quarante-neuf
Flight 170=Vol un sept zéro, vol cent soixante-dix
For two digit numbers, you really should learn how to read them as they are, and NOT as individual digits as it really doesn’t sound good in French (nor in English). “Flight 72” needs to be read as “vol soixante-douze” and NOT “vol sept deux” NOR “flight seven two”.
Want to learn to speak the French you need to work as a flight attendant? Learn even more with Canadian French for Flight Attendants.