MY CLUB • December 2023
Last issue, our aviation journalist Gordon Smith brought you the stories behind some of the world’s most beguiling airport codes. Then you told us yours. From the man who coded Belfast City Airport to the women whose job it was to know them all, here are some of your heart-warming responses…
My favourite has to be DPS, Denpasar Bali. I’ve had this dream of visiting Bali ever since I was about nine years old. I saw it in a movie and couldn’t believe how wonderful the sunset looked and hoped one day to see it for real. I’m now in my 70s and earlier this year managed a holiday to Bali, Singapore and New Zealand. Bali airport, I found, set the tone perfectly for what was to come. A few Christmases ago my son and his fiancée gave me a world scratch map. I’m doing my very best to scratch it clean before my flying days are over.
By Hazel Lynes
Strange to say that my favourite airport code is for London City Airport (LCY), which I call Lucy.
By George Bennett
Cardiff Wales Airport (CWL) surely has the ‘coolest’ IATA code of them all. CWL (pronounced as ‘cool’) in Welsh literally translates as just that – cool. Diolch!
By Darren Chappell
I like the code for Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan: FRU. This dates from when Bishkek was called Frunze. In February 1991, the name of the capital was changed back to its pre-revolutionary name of Bishkek.
By Don Bruce
Many years back I worked for BOAC in Victoria, London – they were fun days! Obviously, we had to know most, if not all, of the airport codes. Somewhere I never booked, but always liked the sound of, was BKI – Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia. Made no sense at all! Nowadays when I’m driving, I like to spot airport and city codes on number plates. Unfortunately they’re on older cars, so not so many are around anymore. A bit like me!
By Julia Harries
I loved the article about airport codes in the latest Club magazine. I’ve always thought I was a bit of an airport codes geek – I’ve even won a few pub quizzes in my time with the odd airport code question. I have a few favourites, none of them particularly obscure but which have always held meaning for me.
ABZ: I grew up in Aberdeen and my first job used to see me go to London regularly. In the early 1990s there were so many different shuttles and carriers to all the London airports several times a day, but ABZ always stood out to me because of the Z – from ABZ I would to fly to LGW, LHR, STN and even occasionally LCY.
MAA: I spent many years working in Chennai (Madras) as an expat. I have many, many boarding cards with MAA on them.
SYD: My first major long-haul business trip was on the top deck of a 747 in business class to Sydney – a wide-eyed 20-something IT professional. I thought I had made it. I spent two years out there!
YYZ: You featured Toronto in the article, and I knew the bit about Y being the Canadian airfields standard code, but the YZ part was interesting. I became aware of the Canada Y prefix when I first heard the story about the Gimli Glider (if you don’t know it, look it up).
NAN: I won a competition many years ago and the prize was a trip to Fiji, landing in Nadi Airport (NAN). I always remember being amused about an airport being named after my Grandma!
By Nick Hopkins
I quite like airport codes from the former Eastern Bloc. Two that immediately spring to mind are St Petersburg - LED, from its former incarnation as Leningrad – and Podgorica, now capital of Montenegro, that has TGD from its Yugoslavian past life as Titograd.
By Jeff Casson
Nice article. I was a bit surprised you didn’t include Maui (Hawaii): OGG. Like many of the other peculiar codes this one is down to an early aviator – Captain Jimmy Hogg. You can read about it here.
By Mark McKergow
My unusual airport code is NQZ for Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The name of the airport is Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport, which helps explains the derivation. The capital city reverted from Nursultan to Astana last year. Another example in Kazakhstan is SCO, for Aktau airport, as it was known as Shevchenko during the Soviet era.
By David Cather
I worked for Loganair Ltd in the early 1980s when Short Brothers, an aircraft manufacturer in Belfast, decided to open a factory airfield, then called Sydenham, for commercial flights. The proviso was that any operator had to be operating the SD330 – a small turboprop aircraft – made by Shorts. If an operator had an SD330, they could operate any aircraft type in their fleet to Sydenham. Loganair then decided to open a Glasgow-Belfast route using this facility and I set about compiling a schedule. I asked the airport manager what the three-letter code was for Sydenham, shortly to be renamed Belfast Harbour Airport, and he told me BHA. I submitted the schedule to the Official Airline Guide (OAG) and had it rejected because BHA was already in use in South America! I then phoned IATA in Montreal, which was responsible for issuing all IATA three-letter codes, and the agent I spoke to went through the alphabet with me starting at BHB, which was also in use, as was BHC. But BHD was available and, as time was of the essence, I agreed. I resubmitted the schedule to the OAG and had it approved. I phoned the now BHD airport manager and told him the code to be used for Belfast Harbour Airport was now BHD and he accepted it without further ado. British Airways operates to BHD from LHR, having taken over the route from BMI (British Midland Airways) when this was taken over by International Airlines Group in 2012. I therefore have the dubious honour of being the person to select BHD for the – again renamed – George Best Belfast City Airport. Not a lot of people know that!
By Bryan Brownlie
In 2006, my wife and I went on a holiday to Fiji and Tuvalu in the South Pacific. Having known the latter through collecting Tuvalu stamps since I was a teenager, the landing at its Funafuti International Airport was extra delightful when I discovered the code was FUN. Safe to say, it was!
By Simon Heap