Airport Codes

If you have ever wondered about the derivation of the three letter code you find on your airport luggage tag then you’ll find Airport Codes very insightful. Many codes are obvious — for example my local airport is Bristol which bears the code BRS.

However, not all are that straightforward — for example, London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports:

London HeathRow takes its name from Heathrow, a hamlet north-west of where the (then) small airfield was started in 1929.
Close to London, GatWick Airport is the second-largest airport in Britain. It’s the world’s busiest single-use runway and is named after Gatwick manor house that used to stand on the site.

Not all London airports have an L prefix. Despite being known as London Stansted Airport it is designated as STN.

Another one that always perplexed me is Ottawa which has the code YOW:

With a few exceptions, airport codes starting with ‘Y’ designate Canadian airports. Named after two Fathers of Confederation, Macdonald-Cartier International gets its other two letters from its home in OttaWa.

Toronto’s main airport Pearson also has an interesting history:

With a few exceptions, airport codes starting with ‘Y’ designate Canadian airports. The ‘YZ’ isn’t as clear, but is said to be the old railway station code for Malton, an area west of Toronto where the airport is located.

There are plenty more facts for aviation fans. At the time of writing, there are 1037 airports from 193 countries listed.