Atlanta airport
Photograph ©2010 by Brian Cohen.

So You Think You Know Airport Codes? Test Your Knowledge. Part One.

Have fun with your friends who do not travel.

So you think you know airport codes? Well, you are about to find out.

This is the first of a series of articles here at The Gate with which you could have some fun at testing your knowledge pertaining to airport codes — and this article will start off with the easiest or best known airport codes, with subsequent articles increasing in difficulty as they delve into airports which are smaller and lesser known…

So You Think You Know Airport Codes? Test Your Knowledge. Part One.

Atlanta airport control tower
Photograph ©2011 by Brian Cohen.

…but first, here is a little history about airport codes…

The International Civil Aviation Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, which is also known as the Chicago Convention.

Airport codes designated by the International Civil Aviation Organization are comprised of four letters. The first letter generally designates a specific region; while the second letter may designate a more finite region in many areas.

For example, K is used for the continental United States — such as KATL for Atlanta and KLAS for Las Vegas — but P is used for Alaska, Hawaii, and other territories of the United States in the northern Pacific Ocean. Examples include PANC for Anchorage, PHNL for Honolulu, and PGUM for Guam.

S represents all of South America — for example, SAEZ is Buenos Aires. Y represents all of Australia — for example, YSSY for Sydney.

International Air Transport Association

Atlanta TRACON
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

The International Air Transport Association represents, leads, and serves the airline industry to improve understanding of the air transport industry among decision makers and increase awareness of the benefits that aviation brings to national and global economies. Advocating for the interests of airlines across the globe, we challenge unreasonable rules and charges, hold regulators and governments to account, and strive for sensible regulation.

Codes for airports and railway stations are comprised of three letters as designated by the International Air Transport Association. The three letters can simply represent the geographic location of the airport or railway station — or they could be based on the history or founding of the airport or railway station.

In the United States and Canada, International Air Transport Association codes are typically based on International Civil Aviation Organization codes. In the United States, the only difference between the codes is the addition of the letter K — for example as mentioned before, ATL for Atlanta is KATL and LAS for Las Vegas is KLAS. In Canada, the only difference between the codes is the addition of the letter C — for example, YYZ for Toronto is CYYZ and YVR for Vancouver is CYVR.

For most other airports around the world, International Civil Aviation Organization codes and International Air Transport Association do not resemble each other — for example:

  • JNB for Johannesburg is FAJS
  • FCO for Rome is LIRF
  • NRT for Tokyo is RJAA
  • EZE for Buenos Aires is SAEZ
  • AKL for Auckland is NZAA

Airport Codes

KLM Atlanta to Amsterdam Schiphol airport
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Here are 50 airport codes which will start off this series of articles:

  1. MCO
  2. DEN
  3. LAX
  4. LAS
  5. FLL
  6. OGG
  7. PHX
  8. TPA
  9. SFO
  10. RSW
  11. SEA
  12. HNL
  13. BOS
  14. SAN
  15. ATL
  16. KOA
  17. SLC
  18. LIH
  19. LGA
  20. MIA
  21. ORD
  22. EWR
  23. PDX
  24. JFK
  25. BWI
  26. DTW
  27. PHL
  28. PBI
  29. DFW
  30. DCA
  31. SJC
  32. MSP
  33. SNA
  34. AUS
  35. BNA
  36. RDU
  37. OAK
  38. CLT
  39. SMF
  40. IAH
  41. IAD
  42. MDW
  43. MSY
  44. JAX
  45. ABQ
  46. PSP
  47. DAL
  48. CHS
  49. STL
  50. RNO

Final Boarding Call

Ninoy Aquino Manila International Airport
Photograph ©2014 by Brian Cohen.

The articles are not meant to be an exhaustive list of airport codes — but they will highlight at least 600 of them.

You could test your knowledge of airport codes off the top of your head…

…or you could simply refer to this article which was posted here at The Gate back on Saturday, June 6, 2020 and find the answers using the tools which are highlighted there — but really: what is the fun in that?

All photographs ©2010, ©2011, ©2014, and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

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