What Are Airport Codes?


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Have you ever wondered what those three-letter codes on your boarding pass mean? Or why some airports have unique code names? These codes are known as airport codes, and they’re used to identify airports around the world. Airport codes have a long history that dates back to the early days of aviation, and today there are different types of airport codes used for different purposes.

In this article, we’ll explore what these airport codes mean, how they came to be, and examples of interesting or unique code names given to certain airports.

So let’s get started!

1. Overview of Airport Codes and What They Mean

Airport codes are a three-letter code used to identify airports around the world.

They are used by airlines, travel agents, and other industry professionals to quickly locate an airport in their system. Airport codes can be found on flight tickets, baggage tags, and other documents related to air travel.

The first letter of the code usually represents the country or region where the airport is located while the second two letters represent its specific location within that area. For example, JFK stands for John F Kennedy International Airport in New York City while CDG stands for Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

Knowing these codes can help you to make bookings faster. Some airports have similar names, and it’s easy to book a flight to wrong destination. It’s not a problem, if you know the airport code — and can find the exact airport.

2. History of How Airport Codes Came to Be

Airport codes have been been around since the 1930s.

At first, they were simply two-letter codes assigned to each airport by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). This was done in an effort to simplify communication and make it easier for airlines to identify which airport they were flying into. However, as more and more airports began to open up internationally, the two-letter codes became insufficient.

In 1953, IATA adopted the three-letter code system that is still used today. This system allowed for a much larger selection of codes, making it easier for airlines to find their intended destination.

3. Different Types of Airport Codes, Such as Iata, Icao, and FAA

The three main types of airport codes are:

  • IATA (International Air Transport Association),
  • ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization)
  • and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

The majority of airlines around the world use IATA codes, while some smaller regional airlines use the ICAO code.

3.1 IATA Airport Codes

IATA codes, also known as airport location identifiers, consist of three letters and are primarily used in commercial reservation systems. These codes help travelers identify airports quickly and easily when booking a flight. IATA codes are also used in baggage tags, airport information displays — you see them everywhere.

3.2 ICAO Airport Codes

ICAO codes are four letter designations that identify airports worldwide.

These codes provide greater precision than their IATA counterparts, allowing controllers to more precisely direct aircraft on approach or departure. They’re often also used for safety-related purposes such as dispatching emergency services or conducting airline investigations.

3.3 FAA Airport Codes

FAA codes consist of two or three letters beginning with “K” followed by two alphanumeric characters that serve to identify airports within the United States. These identifiers can be found printed on charts and aids used by pilots during navigation as well as by air traffic controllers for communication purposes.

3.4 Other Airport Codes and Identifiers

In addition to the three main types of airport code designations, there are also several other less commonly used identifiers.

One example is the US Coast Guard port code system which is used for search & rescue operations in maritime environments. Another is the international Airport Code Database which contains information on over 28000 airports from more than 200 countries worldwide including their IATA/ICAO/FAA codes, geographical coordinates, elevation, and runway lengths. This database is maintained by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

4. Benefits of Understanding and Using Airport Codes When Travelling

First of all, while it can be useful, it’s not really a necessity.

You don’t have to know or understand airport codes in order to go on a trip abroad. It’s just another small thing that can be useful, when you are already a more experienced traveler.

Firstly, they provide a quick way to identify airports and assist in booking flights, which can save time when planning a trip. Additionally, knowing the codes may help you understand if a flight is delayed or cancelled — again, we are talking about minutes, not hours you could save by having this knowledge.

And finally, being familiar with airport codes enables you to quickly recognize international destinations and avoid confusion when looking at airline schedules.

5. Examples of Airports With Unique or Interesting Code Names

Airport codes may not seem like the most interesting topic, but there are actually some pretty funny ones out there. Have you ever seen HEL or ORF and wondered why they’re used? Or have you ever heard of BFF?

How many of these did you know about?

HEL Airport

HEL stands for Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Finland. HEL is also a common abbreviation for hell, so it’s amusing to see this on a flight schedule!

BFF Airport

This one will make you laugh!

BFF is the code for Western Nebraska Regional Airport located in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and stands for Best Friends Forever – how cute is that?

FOG Airport

FOG stands for Francisco de Orellana Airport in Ecuador – isn’t that hilarious? You might not expect such a place to have such an apt name – foggy weather conditions and all – but sure enough it does!

BRO Airport

Last but not least we have BRO – Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport located along Texas’s Gulf Coast border with Mexico. It may sound like someone’s brother but BRO officially stands for Brownsville/South Padre Island International (who knew?).

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