The Codes of the Most Emblematic Airport

Have you ever thought about the fascinating logic behind the codes used to identify airports worldwide? Some major airports have codes that make perfect sense, while others will leave you confused and wondering how they came about. These coding schemes allow pilots and passengers to distinguish between airports around the world.

The three-letter designations used by airports worldwide are often an acronym of the city they serve or the names of notable persons they honour. These airport acronyms are extensively used for communication, pricing, flight monitoring, luggage management, and quick identification of airports.

Are you interested in learning about the codes of some of the most famous airport in the world? Join us as we look at some fascinating examples and the backstories of their airport codes.

Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Chicago, United States) – ORD

Starting off the list is Chicago’s biggest airport, a famous global hub identified by the code ORD. The initials “ORD” refer to the airfield’s original name, Orchard Field Airport (OrchaRD), which was established in 1945 on the grounds of a Douglas Corporation airplane assembly factory that was in operation during the war.

Orlando International Airport (Florida, United States) – MCO

Orlando International Airport is the major transportation hub in the Florida region. It holds a distinction as one of the busiest airports and the largest commercial airport by land area in the U.S.

Orlando International Airport started as McCoy Air Force Base, which comes from the name of a former pilot, Colonel Michael Norman Wright McCoy, who was killed during a bombing and navigation competition in 1957. The air force base was later closed in 1975 and transitioned into the region’s principal aviation hub, with its name-bearing homage to Colonel McCoy through the incorporation of the initials “M,” “C,” and “O.”

Dubai International Airport (Dubai, United Arab Emirates) – DXB

An important hub for passengers travelling between Asia, Europe, and Africa, Dubai International Airport (DXB) is a state-of-the-art facility that represents innovation and lavishness. It opened its doors to the public in 1965. The airport is identified by the airport code DXB, a distinctive designation chosen due to the existing allocation of DUB to Dublin Airport in Ireland and DBA, which belongs to Pakistan’s Dalbandin Airport. The selection of “DXB” was influenced by the practice of using the letter “X” as a placeholder in airport codes, thereby distinguishing it from other similarly named airports.

Beijing Capital International Airport (Beijing, China) – PEK

Beijing Capital International Airport has quickly grown to become one of the emblematic airports in the world. This is due to its meteoric rise as the busiest airport in Asia, surpassing Tokyo-Haneda Airport in terms of passenger traffic and total traffic movements in 2009. Moreover, it was the world’s second busiest airport in passenger traffic for nearly a decade, from 2010 to 2019. The airport is assigned the IATA code, PEK, which is an abbreviation of Beijing’s former Romanised name, Peking.

Heathrow Airport (London, United Kingdom) – LHR

The world-renowned Heathrow Airport is likely familiar to most people who have ever been to London. The international airport code system for Heathrow Airport is LHR. It is the main gateway for international flights into and out of the country. The initial “L” in LHR is a nod to the host city, while the letters “H” and “R” are a nod to the site’s original name, an old agricultural settlement that was called Heath Row. Despite being London’s primary gateway, the airport has never adopted the identification LON, the IATA Metropolitan Code that encompasses all six airports servicing the metropolis.

Singapore Changi Airport (Singapore) – SIN

Changi Airport (SIN) in Singapore is widely regarded as one of the finest airports in the world due to its world-class facilities and renowned efficiency. Lush gardens, breathtaking art pieces, and outstanding retail shops make the airport famous as a haven of peace and elegance for passengers. It is a major aviation hub in Southeast Asia with connections to various regional destinations. Its IATA code, SIN, is an abbreviation of the country it is located in, Singapore.

Los Angeles International Airport (Los Angeles, United States) – LAX

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is a sunny California gem that serves as the entry point to the West Coast and Los Angeles. Travelers from all over the world go to LAX to experience the glamour of Hollywood, the beaches, and Silicon Valley, the innovation capital of the world.

Los Angeles International Airport was initially designated the code L.A in the 1930’s when airports used two-letter codes. However, as the airline industry expanded and the number of airports increased, the IATA codes were extended to three letters. As a result, L.A. Airport became LAX Airport.

Tokyo Haneda Airport (Tokyo, Japan) – HND

Although it is more commonly known as Haneda International Airport or Tokyo Haneda Airport, its actual name is Tokyo International Airport. The airport serves the Greater Tokyo Area in Japan. It is one of the two primary airports serving Tokyo and handles a significant portion of domestic and international flights.

The IATA code for Tokyo Haneda Airport, “HND,” is derived from the airport’s original name, “Haneda Airfield.” However, despite its subsequent renaming to Tokyo International Airport, the original IATA code “HND” has been retained for continuity and recognition in the aviation industry.

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