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How Does An Airline's Codes Get Selected  
User currently offlineFlyingHippo From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 674 posts, RR: 1
Posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4310 times:

Sorry if this question sounds ignorant... but

AA = American Airlines... Simple and logical
AC = Air Canada
CO = Continental ... sure!
NW, BA, VS, CI, all has letters of their names in the code.

SQ... Where is the Q coming from?
QF.... what the F is the F stand for?

Then there are these...

B6 = Jet Blue?
BR = EVA?
WN = Southwest?
MU.....

Are we running out of letters?

23 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineLeskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 70
Reply 1, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4269 times:

As far as I know, it's basically a "first-come, first-served" basis; older airlines got abbreviations that fit their names, but there's really not that much available any more, which is why numbers are also used for airlines (if I recall correctly, they've been used for non-airline codes for a bit longer - things like 2A for "Deutsche Bahn" or 1A for Amadeus).

It's also rather complicated to get a code changed - one example was Nürnberger Flugdienst, which had the code NS; since this is also the abbreviation for "Nationalsozialismus", they tried to get rid of it - and after the rebranding to Eurowings they were able to get a deal with the airline using the EW code up to that point.

There are also some airlines using codes that do not need a IATA code; airlines that only fly under other airlines' codes (some express carriers), as well as some charter carriers (ones that don't sell seats on a seat-only-basis) as well as some LCCs could probably function without IATA codes - but they have them nonetheless (but I guess there'll be a good reason for that).

Regards,
Frank



Smile - it confuses people!
User currently offlineSabena332 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4262 times:

Quoting Leskova (Reply 1):
and after the rebranding to Eurowings they were able to get a deal with the airline using the EW code up to that point.

They exchanged their codes to my knowledge, I think it was some airline from New Zealand.

As Frank wrote in reply # 1, the codes are assigned on a a "first-come, first-served" basis. Southwest couldn't get the SW code because it was already assigned to Air Namibia, makes on the first view no sense either but their original name was South West Air Transport, so they got their SW code but didn't change it after the airline was renamed into Air Namibia.

Another example is Icelandair, they have the code FI which would make more sense for Finnair, but Icelandair was once called Flugfelag Islands so they got their FI code.

Aeroflot has probably SU because it meant Soviet Union in former times.

Southwest took the WN code probably as a joke because it is the Northwest code the other way around.

Another example of such a joke code is Germanwings, they have 4U (for you).

Quoting FlyingHippo (Thread starter):
QF.... what the F is the F stand for?

Makes somehow sense, QF001 would mean Qantas Flight 001. The same for Hapag-Lloyd, they have HF and this makes perfect sense now because they renamed the company into Hapagfly a few months ago, but before it could simply meant Hapag Flight 001 on your boarding pass and on the flight information monitors.

Quoting FlyingHippo (Thread starter):
Are we running out of letters?

Definitely, you can see this on the 4U (Germanwings), B6 (Jetblue), or X3 (Hapag-Lloyd Express) codes.

Patrick

[Edited 2005-08-11 23:13:40]

User currently offlineLincoln From United States of America, joined Nov 2004, 3887 posts, RR: 8
Reply 3, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4231 times:

Percisely what Leskova said  Smile

In the early days, from what I understand, the field was wide open and carriers got their pick (AA, CO, UA, DL, NW, EA, BN, FR? etc. being among the first) and codes were not recycled. As more airlines came along it became a matter of "What codes are available?" and latecommers like WN got stuck with two letter codes that don't really make any sense. (And there's also the case of regionals like SkyWest (OO) who probably couldn't care less about their code since it's something the public never sees).

Even later on in the game were airlines like JetBlue (B6) and the new Frontier (F9) who came after all of the two letter combinations were taken and are now into one letter one number combinations.

The codes are also recycled now... I'm not sure how long of a wait there is before a code gets reissued, but there is at least a little bit of a delay. In addition, some codes are assigned to multiple airlines on a regional basis (I think, but am not sure, that SkyWest's OO may be one of them, since SkyWest will never operate international flights)

Now, does anyone know what PSA's code was or if they even had a code?

Lincoln



CO Is My Airline of Choice || Baggage Claim is an airline's last chance to disappoint a customer || Next flts in profile
User currently offlineBeauing From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 4, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 19 hours ago) and read 4216 times:

Alaska's code AS comes from the days when it was called Star Airlines and then Alaska Star.

America West's HP --does the H have something to do with Howard Hughes?


User currently offlineYOWza From Canada, joined Jul 2005, 4845 posts, RR: 15
Reply 5, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 4194 times:

As the joke goes Air Lanka (now Sri Lankan) got their code, UL, because they were Usually Late.

YOWza



12A whenever possible.
User currently offlineSATX From United States of America, joined Apr 2005, 2840 posts, RR: 7
Reply 6, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 4183 times:

Quoting Sabena332 (Reply 2):
Southwest took the WN code probably as a joke because it is the Northwest code the other way around.

I've wondered about this for a while, but I never came across the answer and I didn't have the guts to ask such a simple question when I was sure it was already covered. Maybe some WN employee will come by with a little more information and/or a link to a previous post.

Kudos to FlyingHippo for asking a question like this on A.net.  Smile



Open Season on Consumer Protections is Just Around the Corner...
User currently offlineFlyingHippo From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 674 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 4181 times:

Thanks for all the info!

How come ICAO codes are less frequently used? They use 3 letters which would have more combinations for airlines to use.


User currently offlineMainliner From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 401 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 4173 times:

I believe America West got its HP designation from a company that was to be called Hawaiian Pacific, but never began service. However, I don't know anything about where it planned to fly from or what their fleet was to consist of.


Every flight counts.
User currently offlineLeskova From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 6075 posts, RR: 70
Reply 9, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 18 hours ago) and read 4169 times:

Quoting Sabena332 (Reply 2):
The same for Hapag-Lloyd, they have HF and this makes perfect sense now because they renamed the company into Hapagfly a few months ago, but before it could simply meant Hapag Flight 001 on your boarding pass and on the flight information monitors.

Actually, it made sense before as well - the company's name is (or was, not sure if the legal entity was renamed to Hapagfly as well) actually Hapag Lloyd Flug... buf I admit that it fits better with Hapagfly. Doesn't change the fact that I still don't like the new name though... Big grin

Quoting FlyingHippo (Reply 7):
How come ICAO codes are less frequently used? They use 3 letters which would have more combinations for airlines to use.

ICAO codes are used on the operational side, while IATA codes are used for things concerning the sales side; I'm guessing that this stems from the fact that sales (tickets and other documents) are mainly regulated by IATA, while ICAO has more influence on the operational side.

There have been numerous comments from IATA officials during the last few years hinting at IATA using ICAO's codes from some point in the future as well, but I'm not aware if any timeframe for that has been set (or if it's actually been decided at all).

Regards,
Frank



Smile - it confuses people!
User currently offlineJetdeltamsy From United States of America, joined Nov 2000, 2986 posts, RR: 8
Reply 10, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 4114 times:

Quoting Beauing (Reply 4):
America West's HP --does the H have something to do with Howard Hughes?

What does Howard Hughes have to do with America West? He was involved with Hughes Airwest and TWA, but never America West.



Tired of airline bankruptcies....EA/PA/TW and finally DL.
User currently offlineSQ25J From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 308 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 4095 times:

I wanted to give my account....but will just say: you submit an application and make lots of phone calls to IATA coding departmnet in Montreal. When they approve an application-they call you and offer you codes available. In my case I was so thrilled I took the first one they offered.

User currently offlineTimRees From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2001, 354 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 4089 times:

Quoting Lincoln (Reply 3):
The codes are also recycled now

An example is BR which was British Caledonian and is now Eva Air.

IATA codes (2-letter codes) are sometimes used in 'controlled duplication' by 2 airlines operating different operations in geographically distant areas where the codes are unlikely to ever appear at the same airport (sorry can't think of an example.

Some airlines are now only allocated ICAO (3-letter codes) eg AHR = Air Adriatic. ICAO codes are used for ATC communication. I understood that they will be introduced for ticketing purposes within the next few years too.


User currently offlineSabena332 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 4085 times:

Quoting TimRees (Reply 12):
IATA codes (2-letter codes) are sometimes used in 'controlled duplication' by 2 airlines operating different operations in geographically distant areas where the codes are unlikely to ever appear at the same airport (sorry can't think of an example.

X3 for example is assigned to Baikal Airlines and Hapag-Lloyd Express.

Patrick


User currently offlineFlyingTexan From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 3993 times:

You can't spell Win wothout WN.

 Wink


User currently offlineFI642 From Monaco, joined Mar 2005, 1079 posts, RR: 2
Reply 15, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 3972 times:

Quoting FlyingTexan (Reply 14):
You can't spell Win wothout WN.

or in this case weinner.  Wink



737MAX, Cool Planes for the Worlds Coolest Airline.
User currently offline777KLM From China, joined Apr 2005, 516 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 3962 times:

Quoting FlyingHippo (Thread starter):
NW, BA, VS, CI, all has letters of their names in the code.

Maybe it's just me... But where is the 'S' in Virgin Atlantic?, can someone explain this to me, because I think there's an easy explanation for this.



Next flight: PEK-CAN
User currently offlineBigGSFO From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 2887 posts, RR: 6
Reply 17, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 3936 times:

US Air inherited Allegheny's code: AL. They lobbied the US gov't to take over the "US" code which was used by (correct me if I am wrong) military charters/US airlifts.

Air New Zealand used to code international flights with "TE" and domestic with "NZ." Not sure when, but they dropped the "TE" and kept the "NZ" for all flights.


User currently offlineClassicLover From Ireland, joined Mar 2004, 4601 posts, RR: 24
Reply 18, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 3793 times:

TE stood for TEAL, which is what they used to be called - Tasman Empire Airways Limited.

Trent.



I do quite enjoy a spot of flying - more so when it's not in Economy!
User currently offlineCornish From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2005, 8187 posts, RR: 54
Reply 19, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 3782 times:

As mentioned earlier, airlines apply to IATA for two letter codes. Many of thenm have codes for historical reasons, even if there current name doesn't seem too logical. Many of them just take the code they are allocated.

One thing I can tell you as ex-IATA staff, and knowing the member relations people there, is that there was always some stigma attached to a code made up of a letter and a number - i.e. B6, etc, in some parts of the world, and it was felt desirable to have a two letter code for prestige reasons. There are a number of carriers who were given a number/letter code initially but later applied for a two letter code. One that springs to mind is Transaero (now UN - can't remember the old code), and a few Chinese and African carriers have done the same.

But obviously the newer the airline, the less likely it is to have a code that has real meaning, unlike the AAs, AFs and LHs of this world.



Just when I thought I could see light at the end of the tunnel, it was some B*****d with a torch bringing me more work
User currently offlineKiwiandrew From New Zealand, joined Jun 2005, 8492 posts, RR: 14
Reply 20, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 3743 times:
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Quoting ClassicLover (Reply 18):
Air New Zealand used to code international flights with "TE" and domestic with "NZ." Not sure when, but they dropped the "TE" and kept the "NZ" for all flights.

NZ was originally the domestic carrier ( National Airways Corporation )
TE was originally the international carrier ( Air New Zealand - previously Tasman Empire Airways Ltd)

the two carriers were merged in 1977 and the TE designator was dropped a couple of years later ( Air New Zealand's only fatal passenger flight carried the TE designator - ironic as it was really a "domestic" flight from AKL to AKL albeit overflying Antarctica on the way - perhaps after this the designator seemed tainted ) TE has since been recycled by one of the Baltic countries - Lithuania I think ( but please dont flame me if I am wrong )


 Smile



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User currently offlineCornish From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2005, 8187 posts, RR: 54
Reply 21, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 3736 times:

Quoting Kiwiandrew (Reply 20):
TE has since been recycled by one of the Baltic countries - Lithuania I think ( but please dont flame me if I am wrong )

Correct indeed - Lithuanian Airlines.

Actually FlyBe was annother to change its code to BE when it rebranded. Before that it was JE or something or other (as was Jersey European then British European)



Just when I thought I could see light at the end of the tunnel, it was some B*****d with a torch bringing me more work
User currently offline747400F From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 22, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 3730 times:

Quoting Kiwiandrew (Reply 20):
ironic as it was really a "domestic" flight from AKL to AKL albeit overflying Antarctica on the way

hm always thought it was CHC-CHC flight


User currently offlineKiwiandrew From New Zealand, joined Jun 2005, 8492 posts, RR: 14
Reply 23, posted (8 years 8 months 1 week 6 days 3 hours ago) and read 3723 times:
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Quoting 747400F (Reply 22):
Quoting Kiwiandrew (Reply 20):
ironic as it was really a "domestic" flight from AKL to AKL albeit overflying Antarctica on the way

hm always thought it was CHC-CHC flight

747400F - I'll split the difference with you we're both half right and both half wrong !

checking back it was meant to route AKL ( Antarctica ) CHC AKL - though CHC was intended purely as a refuelling stop as the dear old DC10-30 was not quite longlegged enough to do AKL Antarctica AKL without refuelling



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