What's the Deal with Airport Codes?
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
When you travel frequently (and definitely when you work in travel), you get familiar with airport codes. Some airport codes are pretty obvious, like ATL for Atlanta. Some of them definitely aren't, like YYZ for Toronto. Have you ever wondered what they mean? Here's a quick airport code lesson for you. Airport codes have been around for nearly a century and every airport in the world gets one as a unique identifier. Actually, every airport in the world gets two - a four character version that includes a letter for a country, which are typically used by air traffic control. The one we see more often is three letters and no two airports can have the same code. Generally the code is created by some combination of the city name, the actual airport location, the airport name, or something else meaningful to the area. Here in Canada, our airport codes don't follow the same pattern as most other countries. Many are based on the past existence of weather-reporting stations. Codes that start with Y indicate that yes a weather station existed and those starting with a W indicate it was without a station. Codes that end in X mean the 2nd and 3rd letters were already used by another airport in Canada. Those that end in Z mean the 2nd and 3rd letters were already used by a US airport. Sometimes, airports get a bit unlucky with their airport codes or they like to have a little fun with them. Here's just a few - have you been to any of them? OMG - Omega Airport (Namibia) BOO - Bodo Airport (Norway) BUM - Butler Memorial Airport (USA) SUX - Sioux Gateway Airport (USA)
PEE - Perm International Airport (Russia) POO - Pocos De Caldas Airport (Brazil)
LOL - Derby Field (USA)