Deciphering The Airport Code For You Bookmark and Share

Heathrow airport

An airport code is a three or four letter cryptogram used to identify each airport. There are two different codes that each airport has, the IATA code and the ICAO code. The IATA code is more commonly known, and is used for airline travel, and for things such as baggage transfers. The ICAO code is used for flight planning and international airport flights.

The IATA abbreviation stands for the International Air Transport Association. The airport codes distributed by the IATA are used by airports everywhere, especially to mark luggage and find airline seats. The codes are issued by the IATA headquarters in Montreal, and are published biannually in the IATA coding directory. After being issued, all airports are given a unique three letter cryptogram. Codes that are defunct for any reason may be used again at a later date for some other airport, after a suitable time period has passed. These codes are highly useful for airport security, air cargo tracking, and for international airport transfers. If an airport does not have their own code because they are too small, then they are given a Location Identifier instead. The IATA also issues codes for railways.

The ICAO abbreviation stands for the International Civil Aviation Organization. This organization produces four letter cryptograms that are specifically designed to be used with international airport travel and transport. These international airport codes are published in the ICAO Document 7910: Location Indicators. These cryptograms are more for the use of airline professionals, such as air traffic controllers and flight planners, rather than for the general public. For example, Heathrow airport uses the IATA code of LHR, but the ICAO code is EGLL. The IACO airport code can also be used by weather stations, International Flight Service Stations and Area Control Centers, even if not located near an airport. The IACO ciphers are broken up by regions, and are considered comprehensive. Usually, the first letter stands for the continent or a group of countries within a continent, the second stands for a country in the region, and the last two letters are used to identify each unique airport. If an airport has no ICAO code, then sometimes the ZZZZ cipher is used for arranging flight plans and other such tasks.

While IATA codes and ICAO codes are both used as airport identifiers, they have different uses. ICAO codes are used for airline professionals, such as air traffic controllers and other such tasks, and the IATA codes are used for the traveling public and for dealings from airport to airport. It is good to understand the significance of an airport code.


Got something to say?