Why do airports have the 3 letter abbreviations?
The Wright Brothers first flew their aircraft at Kitty Hawk, NC as most of you learned in elementary school. However, there wasn’t a KTH abbreviated airport at the time for you to to take a flight to.
Some quick facts about the IATA Codes:
- There are over 17,000 unique, three-letter combinations
- The US Navy reserved the letter ‘N’ (Newark is EWR)
- The Federal Communications Commission have reserved the letters ‘W’ and ‘K’ (Key West, FL is EYW)
- Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is ORD due to it being on the outside of the busy city of Chicago near Orchard Field
- Not all airports have the same FAA and IATA code
If you travel a good bit in Canada, you’ve probably noticed how a lot of airports are YYZ, YUL, YVR, and so on – all of them beginning with the ‘Y’. This ‘Y’ dates all the way back to the first days of radiotelegraphy (source).
Airports in the USA that were around during their weather station counterparts simply appended on an ‘X’. Some notable examples are Portland (PDX), Los Angeles (LAX), and Sioux Falls (SUX).
Sioux Falls was so upset about their abbreviation that they petitioned the IATA to change their abbreviation. They were offered a couple of alternatives (GWU, GYO, GYT, SGV, and GAY). However, the airport board decided against all of those options. Their slogan and merchandise in the airport is appropriately branded with ‘Fly SUX‘.
Want to learn more about your favorite airports, check out this beautifully designed website. Want to learn even more about the history of IATA codes, SkyGod was a great resource for this post.
|1||Delta Air Lines||129,433,000|
|3||China Southern Airlines||100,683,000|
|7||China Eastern Airlines||66,174,000|
|Rank||Airport||Country||IATA Code||Total Passengers|
|1||Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport||United States||ATL||22,746,009|
|2||Beijing Capital International Airport||China||PEK||21,663,240|
|3||Dubai International Airport||United Arab Emirates||DXB||19,606,327|
|4||Tokyo Haneda Airport||Japan||HND||18,053,930|
|5||Los Angeles International Airport||United States||LAX||16,416,281|
|6||London Heathrow Airport||United Kingdom||LHR||16,364,246|
|7||Hong Kong International Airport||China||HKG||16,328,000|
|8||O'Hare International Airport||United States||ORD||16,258,025|
|9||Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport||United States||DFW||14,487,751|