How Did Airports Get Those Three-Letter Codes?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Every find yourself flying out of PEE (Russia’s Bolshoye Savino Airport),  POO (Brazil’s Poco De Caldas Airport) or FAT (Fresno, California) and wonder how in the world these airports were assigned those initials? Well, as usual, blame Canada. As this ABC News article explains, turns out the Montreal-based International Air Transport Association (IATA) is in charge of doling out these acronyms, usually (and logically) based on a city’s name, like Boston (BOS) or Miami (MIA). But when all else fails, they just make it up!

Turns out things get a little tricky when airports used to be known by their former two-letter weather initials (like Los Angeles and Phoenix). To fix this, the airports simply tacked on an “X” to conform to three letters (usually when the logical three-letter combo was already taken), hence LAX and PHX. Other airports were named after someone, hence their three letters are someone’ name, like New York’s JFK or Knoxville’s TYS (named for Lt. Tyson, a downed WWI fighter pilot whose mother donated the land for the airport).

Now the fun begins. Want to see what swear words and dirty intonations you’ll be reading when you fly around the world? Check out and let the fun begin! Here are some starters for you.

And here are my top five favorite codes (you can either guess or click to see):

1) Fukuoka, Japan

2) Dickinson, North Dakota

3) Biard, France

4) Doha, Qatar (in honor of Homer Simpson)

5) Dehra Dun, India (nowhere you want to end up after a flight)

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