Flying SUX! The Weirdest Stories Behind Our Airport Codes

Flying SUX! The Weirdest Stories Behind Our Airport Codes

You see them everywhere: On highway signs, plane tickets, and even humblebraggy Twitter updates. Some are obvious and some make no sense. But what do these three-letter airport codes really mean?

The sleek new site Airport Codes lets you bounce from airport to airport exploring the codes and their origins. Here are some of the more amazing, intriguing and just plain strange stories behind those three little letters.

SYD: Kingsford Smith Airport is named in honour of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Australian aviator. Its airport code honours its home in SYDney.

MEL: Located in the suburb of Tullamarine, Melbourne Airport is often called “Tullamarine Airport” or just “Tulla”. Its airport code comes from the city of MELbourne.

LAX, PDX, PHX: The reason so many airports, like Los Angeles, Portland and Phoenix have a code that ends in X is because up until the 1930s, airports only had two-letter codes. So LA became LAX, and so forth.

SFO: The one exception to this rule is San Francisco, which wanted to use the O at the end of its name.

EWR: The US Navy snapped up all the N codes, so Newark had to make do with the only available letters in its name.

IAD: Dulles International Airport used to be DIA, but it was misspelled as DCA, another DC-area airport. So the code was changed to avoid confusion.

ORD: Chicago's major airport's code isn't a bad spelling of O'Hare. It used to be Orchard Field.

SUX: Poor Sioux City, Iowa tried to get its code changed, to no avail. SUX for them.

FAT: Sorry, Fresno Yosemite International Airport, you were originally named Fresno Air Terminal. This is why you're FAT.

YVR, YWG: In one of the only country-wide code examples, Canadian airports like Vancouver and Winnipeg all have codes start with Y. Why Y? No one knows.

YYZ, YUL: However, these two Canadian airports have codes that no one can explain. Toronto (YYZ) and Montreal (YUL) might be named for nearby railway stops and radio stations, respectively.

What are some of your favourites that we didn't mention? [Airport Codes via Co.Design]



    In Australia we don't use a three letter code for the airport(not to sure about the US states that seem to be the majority posted up there )

    we use the ICAO standard airport codes, the only reason we see "MEL" or "SYD" is the abbreviation on the CITY not airport.

    I dont know if these links will work but please follow along if you have the chance.

    Melbourne - YMML

    Sydney - YSSY

    These are airport en route supplements, taken from a publish document specific for airports known as the En Route Supplement Australia or ERSA.

    You will notice if you can see the PDF supplied, on the front page of either airport, in the top right hand corner under "ELEV" (elevation, which is the airports elevation about sea level) is the airport code.

    hope this clarifies things a little and we understand what an abbreviation of the town the airport is located in and the actually airport "code".

      You are part right, we actually use both. Depending on the document we will use IATA, but most industry use ICAO eg: pilots. Flight radar shows everything as ICAO because you are right, but everything outside of this is IATA EG: Brisbane is BNE not YBBN, and thats becuase it is it's code not because abbreviation.

      Not quite.

      The 3 letter codes are IATA codes and used by airlines for bookings/baggage/etc. So it's typical to see this on your boarding pass for example.

      The 4 letter codes are ICAO codes and used by air traffic control and pilots for planning/routing. The public don't generally get to see these.

      Both are in common use in Australia.

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