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A Detailed Guide: What Is an Airport Code?

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    Jonathan Chum

What is an airport code? An airport code is a series of letters assigned to individual airports all over the world.

If you are planning on getting on a plane in the near future, there is a good chance that you have seen a series of letters printed on your phone, your boarding pass, or your receipt. What do these letters mean? In some cases, it is relatively easy to see that they are assigned to a specific airport. In some cases, the letter series may not make a lot of sense. Ultimately, you are looking at airport codes. As experienced travelers, we know all about airport codes, and we will be happy to share some information about them with you.

What are airport codes and why do we have them? What do they mean to you as a traveler? We are going to cover airport codes, where you can find them, and why they matter. Learn more below!

How Do I Use Airport Codes?

As a traveler, there are multiple ways that you are going to use airport codes. For example, if you are interested in booking a plane ticket to another destination, you can use an airport code to quickly locate a city when you are looking for flights.

As an example, if you would like to fly to New York City, did you know that there are actually three airports located in and around New York City? This includes LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy, and Newark International Airport. Therefore, simply saying that you want to fly to New York City will not help you book a ticket. You may need to use the airport code to specify which airport you would like to fly into.

In addition, you may need to use the airport code to help you find your gate when you get to the airport. If you look up at the monitor, there are some situations where you may see airport codes displayed instead of the full name of the airport. Therefore, you can use an airport code to help you locate your gate as well.

Finally, in the event that you need to change your ticket, you will need to use either the ticket confirmation number, which can be difficult to remember, or the airport codes associated with your origin and destination. Therefore, you can use airport codes to look up your own travel plans as well.

Where Are Airport Codes Located?

If you are interested in looking up airport codes, there are several places they are going to be located. First, you can always find airport codes online. There are registers of airport codes that have been assigned by the FAA. You can use this register to find the airport code associated with your origin and destination.

Second, if you are trying to find airport codes for your own travel purposes, there are several places you can find them. You usually get an email confirmation with your travel plans. This email is going to contain your airport codes. In addition, if you have a boarding pass in your hand, you should be able to find the airport code of your origin and destination on the boarding pass. Finally, if you are carrying an electronic copy of your boarding pass on your phone, this should also contain the airport codes associated with your next flight. It can be helpful to learn your airport codes so that you can get your questions answered a little bit faster.

Why Do Airport Codes Matter?

Airport codes are important for multiple reasons. First, a lot of airports have exceptionally long names. In a lot of cases, is simply easier to refer to airports using an abbreviation. For example, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is a very long name for an airport. In some cases, it may not even fit on the physical boarding pass. Furthermore, this name doesn't say anything about where the airport is physically located. You might not even realize that this airport is in Atlanta. It is simply easier to shorten this airport name to ATL, which makes sense.

Furthermore, airport codes also matter because it helps people figure out exactly where they are going. As mentioned above, New York City has three airports near its borders. Chicago also has two airports. They are Chicago O'Hare and Midway. Airport codes are helpful because they can specify exactly what airport you are flying to if the city has multiple airports.

Why Do We Have Airport Codes?

There are actually multiple registers of airport codes that have been assigned by various governing institutions. For example, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) all assign airport codes. There are various ways that airports have gotten their airport codes over the years.  To make things easier, a lot of airports started using the same two-letter code that the National Weather Service assigned to their city. Then, they would place an X at the end of it. For example, the airport in Los Angeles is abbreviated LAX. The airport in Phoenix is coded as PHX.

Even though not every airport follows this system, it does make it easier for airports that have been established more recently. These airport codes make it easier for us to track flights, locate boarding passes, and communicate information about flying conditions above a certain airport. Without a doubt, airport codes are here to stay.

Put Airport Codes To Use

Ultimately, airport codes are important because they can help you quickly and efficiently identify a given airport. For cities that have multiple airports within their borders, airport codes help you specify exactly where you are going. You might also need your airport code if you are looking up a boarding pass. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to find your airport code. It is located on your physical boarding pass, and you can also look up airport codes relatively easily online.