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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Deciphering Airport Codes

JFK, SUX. LAX, BRA. DFW, BOO. For those trying to read deep meaning into what seems to be a code,  CHL* out. These three-letter words are merely International Air Transport Association
Orbitz-AirportCodes-v2(IATA) location identifiers, aka airport codes.

Orbitz Blog recently made a delightful info-graphic based on the information below. Here's the link.

Back in the 1930s, when airports started springing up around the world, two-letter codes were assigned to the facilities. But as the jet age boomed, and more airports opened, additional combinations were needed, so an extra letter was attached. Therefore, many early airport codes, like LA, simply got an X added to their handles.

The origins of many airport codes are cousins of Captain Obvious. JFK stands for JFK Airport in New York. DFW is Dallas-Fort Worth. But others seem rather flighty. For example, Chicago’s O’Hare is certainly out of the ORDinary. Why ORD? O’Hare was built on a site that was once Orchard Field. Orlando’s MCO has similar historical roots, as it stands on the former McCoy Air Force field.

OK, let’s head to Canada. Back when the assignments started spawning, local broadcast letters were often incorporated into airport codes. In the U.S., television and radio stations east of the Mississippi were designated with the letter W (minus Pittsburgh’s KDKA). In the West, the opening letter was K. In Canada, it was Y. Y? We don’t know. But regardless, the country’s airports adopted the letter and the majority of its airport codes start with Y. YVR is Vancouver and YUL never believe it, but Montreal is YUL. Canadian rock band Rush named one of its most notable pieces, YYZ, after Toronto’s airport code.

Then there are those codes that are, well, titillating. Take BRA, from Barreiras in Brazil. While waxing Brazilian, let’s also mention Po├žos de Caldas, or POO. Manaus uses MAO, which would be more appropriate for Beijing, which, no peeking, is PEK (for Peking). The code for the airport in St. Petersburg, Russia is also a relic of the past. LED refers to Leningrad, the city’s moniker during the Soviet era.

Meantime, the code for St. Petersburg Clearwater International Airport in Florida is not as easy as PIE, any way you slice it. P--that’s for Pinellas, the county in which the airport is located. I is for International..and that E...no explanation. It does sound yummy, though.

Ranging from the mildly amusing to the politically incorrect to the social media savvy, there’s MAD in Madrid; FAT in Fresno; and DOH, that’s Doha. If this leaves you LOL, then you likely are in Lovelock City, Nevada.

Finally, there is the most famous of all the sobriquets. Sioux City, Iowa-SUX. SIX and SOX, apparently, would not do. For many years, the local population chafed at the code. Finally, however, the city and the airport took a big gulp, and now heartily encourage folks to Fly SUX.

*Challis Airport in Idaho

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