Sometimes, My Vacation Lady just likes to pass on some fun travel info that we come across.  So today, we found this about how airline codes came into being.

If you are flying from Boston, it makes sense that the airport you are flying from is BOS.  If you are flying from NYC, there is no airport code NYC.  There are actually 3 airports and none look anything like NYC.   JFK was is the code for John F Kennedy International Airport and LGA for LaGuardia, name for a former mayor of New York. And let’s not forget about Newark which is technically in NJ but is still considered one of the 3 NYC airports.

According to an article in Business Insider:

In the early 20th century, there were only a handful of “airports,” which in reality were just any area big enough for a plane to land or take off. But when other airports started cropping up in the 1930s, the previous coding system had to be reevaluated. The airports with two-letter weather station codes received an X on the end (LA became LAX and Portland’s PD became PDX), and every subsequent airport was given three letters.

Those three letters were usually the first three letters of the city name — Atlanta became ATL, Boston is BOS, etc. But in some cases, the codes are a little more confusing:

1. An airport code is named after the airport itself: Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris is CDG, John F. Kennedy airport in New York is JFK.

2. The airport is named after the location: Harrisburg International airport is actually located in Middletown, Pennsylvania, and is known as MDT.

3. The airport is named after a historical figure: Knoxville airport in Tennessee was built on land donated by the Tyson Family in honor of their son killed in WWI (TYS).

4. Locations beginning with an ‘N’: The Navy saved all of the new ‘N’ codes for itself, thus Newark becomes EWR, while the Navy training airport in Pensacola, Florida is NPA.

5. Locations beginning with W or K are only for radio stations east and west of the Mississippi, respectively. So Wilmington, North Carolina becomes ILM and Key West, Florida is EYW.

6. ‘Q’ is designated for international telecommunications.

7. ‘Z’ is reserved for special uses: ZCX is the computer address of FAA’s air traffic control headquarters, for example.

8. Canadians got all the ‘Y’ codes. YUL for Montreal, YYZ for Toronto, and so on.


While you really don’t need to know how your airport got it’s 3 letter code, it is important to know that code (especially if you are checking luggage and want to make sure that your luggage is headed to the right place).

Just remember that when you’re going to Disney World in Orlando, you want MCO, not  ORL which is Orlando Executive Airport or ORD which will take you to Chicago.  If you want San Juan, Puerto Rico- you want SJU– not SJO since that will get you to Costa Rica instead or SJD which will take you to Los Cabos in Mexico.

Need to know an airport code anywhere in the world?  Click here

When it comes to planning your next vacation or your dream honeymoon, My Vacation Lady can help with all of these little details—like making sure you are getting to Athens, Greece (ATH) instead of Athens, GA (AHN)