Anyone who has ever flown – or simply booked an airline ticket online – is aware that when it comes to traveling between here and there it helps to know your location identifier, the ubiquitous three-letter markers used to designate airports around the globe.
Airport codes, as they are typically known, trace their origin to the 1920s when US airmail pilots began using the two-digit abbreviations assigned to cities by the National Weather Service (NWS). As the commercial aviation expanded during the 1930s, three-letter city codes were introduced enabling the industry to accommodate up to 11,756 distinct markers. Since 1945, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has been responsible for administering the system.
While some airport codes make perfect sense: ATL (Atlanta, GA) – SLC (Salt Lake City, UT) – STL (St. Louis, MO)
Others are a bit less obvious: JFK (New York City, NY. Kennedy Airport) – LAX (Los Angeles, CA)
And a few leave you scratching your head: MCI (Kansas City, MO) – MCO (Orlando, FL) – ORD (Chicago, IL. O’Hare Airport)
If you’re interested in matching destinations to their abbreviations (and want to know why the two were paired together) the website airportcod.es is worth a look. There, you’ll find an alphabetical list of more than 200 location identifiers from around the world together with the story of their origins.
CVG? The code for the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport comes from the nearby city of CoVinGton.
LAX? When the industry shifted over to three-letter codes in the 1930s, many airports simply added an “X” to the end of the code they were already using.
ORD? Prior to being renamed in 1949 after Medal of Honor recipient Edward O’Hare, Chicago’s largest airport was known as ORcharD Field.
SUX? I’ve been to Sioux City, Iowa. Yep.