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The mystery behind three-letter airport codes

by amit.uniyal 14. April 2014 08:11

The airport codes are of three letters. And, it’s a common knowledge for almost all the air travelers. In most of the cases these airport codes easily decipher the arrival or destination cities, but sometimes these seem to be weird and difficult to attribute the cities they belong to. Decoding the destination through an airport code is often perplexing though. For travelers, particularly those who are not aware of the nitty-gritty, this seems more of a mystery. Let us understand the story behind some of these awkward and bizarre airport codes.

airport codes

For instance the airport codes for cities like Perth, Melbourne and Sydney are quite understandable. For Perth it is PER, Melbourne has MEL and Sydney has SYD. These airport codes make perfect sense and one can easily understand that the first three letters easily signify the cities that they belong to. But this naming convention is not followed with most of the cities. For example, what will you say in case of a city like Brisbane? The airport code of Brisbane is BNE, whereas it should have been BRI similar to that of Melbourne, Perth or Sydney. In fact, the airport code BRI is allocated to Bari, an Italian city.

Some of the city’s airport codes are derived after skipping few letters. And, even these make sense. Cities like Adelaide, Auckland and Hong Kong have airport codes ‘ADL’, ‘AKL’ and ‘HKG’ respectively. These airport codes closely fit to their respective cities.

But one can be surprised on seeing the airport code of Los Angeles as ‘LAX’. Most of the travelers know that LAX or Los Angeles is one and the same. But, how did the letter ‘X’ creep in the airport code of Los Angeles? There’s a story behind this and it knowing it will certainly add to your knowledge as to how the airport codes actually evolved over the years.

In earlier days when air travel was just beginning or taking shape, the airports were usually known by a two-letter code named after the weather station. So, the airport code of Los Angeles was simply LA. However, with the growth of air travel a need arose to name the airports with a proper airport code. Keeping this in view, a three-letter code was introduced to identify the airports. And, so began the story of the letter ‘X’ and the way in which it is proving to be helpful in naming the airports.

Akin to Los Angeles, even the airport code of Portland is PDX. As we move forward and come to know about other cities, one will be surprised to know that the airport code of Dubai is also DXB. However, it should have been ‘DUB’. But, this in fact belongs to Dublin and Dubai followed suit of Los Angeles and Portland by getting the ‘X’ letter in its airport code. It is not only the letter ‘X’ which has made entry. Even letter ‘Z’ has also entered the scene. The proposed Sydney West Airport being built at Badgery’s Creek in Australia has its airport code named as ‘SWZ’. So, this is the real story behind the airport codes and how they are evolving.

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Tags: three letter airport codes

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