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Airline Abbreviations  
User currently offlineDocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 19688 posts, RR: 58
Posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 7319 times:

So I know that the IATA assigns them, but there are some abbreviations that make no sense to me.

B6
VX vs VS
HP
WN
SQ

Anyone know how these were made up? What they mean? Anyone know of any other such examples?

25 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineHOONS90 From Canada, joined Aug 2001, 3015 posts, RR: 52
Reply 1, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 7302 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
CHAT OPERATOR

WN - We're Nuts (IIRC, someone please correct me if I'm wrong)

Not sure about the others.



The biggest mistake made by most human beings: Listening to only half, understanding just a quarter and telling double.
User currently offlineOzarkD9S From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 5107 posts, RR: 21
Reply 2, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 7258 times:

There are only so many two letter codes to go around. IATA started adding numbers to codes when the letters "ran out". So you often have to take what you can get. Many older carriers have codes similar to their names because there were far fewer airlines so the codes could generally match up to letters in the airline's name: AA=American Airlines, NW=NorthWest etc...

As airlines proliferated you started seeing some strange codes assigned to airlines because they quite simply had to give them something and the more obvious codes were spoken for.



Next Up: STL-LGA-RIC-ATL-STL
User currently offlinePaneuropean From Netherlands, joined Sep 2006, 882 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 2 days ago) and read 7153 times:

So why aren't they using three letters then ?

DLH
BAW
AFR
KLM
SIA
EMR
AMR
DEL
NWA


User currently offlineBlueFlyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 3994 posts, RR: 2
Reply 4, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 7126 times:
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Quoting Paneuropean (Reply 3):
So why aren't they using three letters then ?

IATA uses two letters. IATA is mostly used for reservation purposes. ICAO uses three letters. ICAO is mostly used for navigation purposes, hence the need for three letters (plenty of airlines around that do not need a IATA code because they do not take passenger reservations - think charter airlines, cargo carriers, etc...).

There's been talk for years of switching reservation systems to the ICAO three-letter code, but for some reason, it isn't happening. One of the purpose of the switch would be to stop dual-use IATA codes. While I can't think of a specific example, there are cases of two airlines sharing the same IATA code, due to lack of available codes. When such an overlap happen, IATA makes sure the two airlines are both small and very distinct geographically speaking (eg a domestic carrier in Australia and another one in South Africa) so that even though they share the same code, there's absolutely no possible confusion as to which operates what flight (for booking purposes).



I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineLonghornmaniac From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 3297 posts, RR: 44
Reply 5, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 7123 times:



Quoting Paneuropean (Reply 3):

They do, there are two types of airline codes: IATA and ICAO.

The IATA codes are the two letter codes (e.g. AA, LH, KL)

The ICAO codes are the three letter codes (e.g. AAL, DLH, KLM)

Cheers,
Cameron


User currently offlinePianos101 From United States of America, joined Jan 2008, 365 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 7095 times:



Quoting DocLightning (Thread starter):
B6

I read on here that B6 stood for the "big six" (american, continental, united, delta, us, northwest) and was a "pun" that jetBlue was better than the "big six," or B6


User currently offlineAndz From South Africa, joined Feb 2004, 8453 posts, RR: 10
Reply 7, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago) and read 6987 times:
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Quoting DocLightning (Thread starter):

WN

Air Namibia beat them to the punch for SW.



After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
User currently offlineVV701 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 7531 posts, RR: 17
Reply 8, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 6967 times:



Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 4):
there are cases of two airlines sharing the same IATA code

 checkmark 

For example I believe that:

AX has been allocated by IATA to Air Aurora (USA) and Binter Mediterraneo (Spain) and that CTA (Switzerland)">BB was allocated to both Balair CTA (Switzerland) and Seaborne Aviation (USA). Whether these allocations were concurrent or consecutive I am not sure.


User currently offlineRidgid727 From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 1121 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 6914 times:

IATA gives new airlines the listing of available codes. Most of the 'legend" surrounding codes is made up after the assignment of the new code.

On occasion, airlines request to be re-coded, as in the case of Air New Zealand, who up into sometime in the 80's had the code TE, and Aloha up into sometime in the early 80's had the code TS. (recoding takes a long time)

the code of HP for America West was actually given to an upstart company named Hawaiian Pacific Airlines, who was to offer low cost service from a number of cities to Hawaii, went through the certification processes etc, but ran into financial problems and could not keep going-and at the same time, Ed Beauvais was attempting to get America West underway, and had started the certification process, but instead changed courses and they bought the certificate of Hawaiian Pacific to hasten getting into the air.


User currently offlineAirAmericaC46 From United States of America, joined Mar 2004, 590 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 6896 times:

Hello to Andz of South Africa:

Air Namibia is an off-shoot of the airline of Southwest Africa (which was previously a part of South Africa during the apartheid). IIRC the name of that airline was SudWest Lugdiens so it does make sense to inherit its SW code.
AirAm


User currently offlineAndz From South Africa, joined Feb 2004, 8453 posts, RR: 10
Reply 11, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 6875 times:
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Quoting AirAmericaC46 (Reply 10):
Air Namibia is an off-shoot of the airline of Southwest Africa (which was previously a part of South Africa during the apartheid). IIRC the name of that airline was SudWest Lugdiens so it does make sense to inherit its SW code.
AirAm

Almost correct... Nambia was known as South West Africa before independence in 1989. Air Namibia was Namib Air from 1978 to 1991, prior to that it was known as Suidwes Lugdiens. The Namib Air name is much older; the Walvis Bay company which held that name became a subsidiary of Suidwes Lugdiens in 1966.

source: http://www.airnamibia.com.na/about.php



After Monday and Tuesday even the calendar says WTF...
User currently offlineFlyPIJets From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 912 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 6806 times:



Quoting HOONS90 (Reply 1):
WN - We're Nuts (IIRC, someone please correct me if I'm wrong)

Fun nemonic created by SWA (or someone) to help people remember is isn't SW. But, SWA didn't get the 2 letter code 'cause they're nuts.  Smile

This question pops up on A.net every now and again, the whole 2 letter code history and resulting odd codes. I think it would be faily interesting, because the two letter system didn't just appear as the result of  idea . No, I suspect to understand the how and why on the 2 letter code is to understand Airline Central Reservation Offices, the Telex, early Airline Reservation Systems how they evolved in to Computer Reservation Systems and then into Global Distribution Systems.

I'd love to hear more from the ticketing agents aboard a.net



DC-8, DC-9, DC-10, F28, 717, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, IL-62, L-1011, MD-82/83, YS-11, DHC-8, PA-28-161, ERJ 135/145, E-1
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25300 posts, RR: 22
Reply 13, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 6784 times:

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 4):
There's been talk for years of switching reservation systems to the ICAO three-letter code, but for some reason, it isn't happening.

There was a plan to use 3-letter codes for reservations and ticketing purposes at least 20 years ago but the cost to change systems, tickets, etc. was in the many millions of $$ and airlines thus preferred to stick with the 2-character codes as long as possible, and introduce alpha-numeric codes to increase the number of combinations.

Quoting Ridgid727 (Reply 9):
On occasion, airlines request to be re-coded, as in the case of Air New Zealand, who up into sometime in the 80's had the code TE, and Aloha up into sometime in the early 80's had the code TS. (recoding takes a long time)

Codes are often reassigned after they again become available, usually after remaining dormant for a few years. For example, Air New Zealand's old TE code is now used by Lithuanian Airlines and Aloha's original TS code is now used by Canadian carrier Air Transat. Air Canada's old TC code (before they changed their name from Trans-Canada Air Lines in 1964) was reassigned to Air Tanzania. British Caledonian's BR code is now EVA Air in Taiwan. The former OZ code of U.S. regional carrier Ozark Airlines (purchased by TWA in 1986) is now Asiana in Korea. Many other similar code reassignments.

[Edited 2008-07-27 09:45:09]

User currently offlineOlympus69 From Canada, joined Jun 2002, 1737 posts, RR: 7
Reply 14, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 6737 times:

Another reason for not going to 3 letter codes might be confusion with 3 letter airport codes. I can never remember whether they are ICAO or IATA. In the USA and Canada the 4 letter codes are mosty the same as 3 letter codes with the region letter in front.

User currently offlineAznCSA4QF744ER From United States of America, joined Oct 2003, 691 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 6706 times:

Qantas Airways got its code QF because they insisted that
Qantas is Forever  hissyfit 


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25300 posts, RR: 22
Reply 16, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 6679 times:



Quoting AznCSA4QF744ER (Reply 15):
Qantas Airways got its code QF because they insisted that
Qantas is Forever

Qantas was EM (for Empire) until sometime in the early/mid 1960s. They adopted the QF code after they dropped the word "Empire" from their name which had been Qantas Empire Airways.


User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21624 posts, RR: 55
Reply 17, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 6647 times:



Quoting Paneuropean (Reply 3):
So why aren't they using three letters then ?

Because those can be just as confusing as the two-letter codes. TRS for AirTran? Makes sense if you know that their radio callsign is "citrus", but how many average travellers know that? And some people are going to think that CAL (China Airlines) is Continental (which is actually COA). And then you have confusion with the three-letter codes used for airports. The whole system has been built around two letters for airlines, and three letters for airports. You're going to end up with some codes that don't make sense, but that's just the way it is.

Quoting Olympus69 (Reply 14):
Another reason for not going to 3 letter codes might be confusion with 3 letter airport codes. I can never remember whether they are ICAO or IATA.

IATA airport codes are three letters, ICAO are four.

-Mir



7 billion, one nation, imagination...it's a beautiful day
User currently offlineSingapore_Air From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2000, 13742 posts, RR: 19
Reply 18, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 6648 times:



Quoting DocLightning (Thread starter):
SQ

No idea how it came about, but nowadays SQ could be an apt acronym for the airline it represents: Service Quality



Anyone can fly, only the best Soar.
User currently offlineCloudyapple From Hong Kong, joined Jul 2005, 2454 posts, RR: 9
Reply 19, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 6602 times:



Quoting DocLightning (Thread starter):
but there are some abbreviations that make no sense to me.

Because they are not abbreviations of anything. They are completely arbitrary alphanumeric characters someone thought up to represent the carrier concerned. And these do not need to mean anything.

Good when they mean something but they will work just as well with characters drawn randomly.

Quoting Mir (Reply 17):
TRS for AirTran? Makes sense if you know that their radio callsign is "citrus",

Thing is these codes don't need to mean anything to the traveller. CO123 is most often C-O-1-2-3 to the average traveller and hardly ever Continental 123.

In the age of electronic ticketing, the actual name of the carrier and of the airport are bound to be on the email you print off the computer. Unlikely to be any confusion between 3-letter/4-letter codes because they are just codes.

ICAO code has the advantage of being unique for EACH operator and EACH airport in the whole wide world, however large or small or miniscule.

On the contrary IATA codes also cover some train, ferry and bus services. But they can also be given ICAO codes easily to make it universal for the whole transport industry.

And the real reason we still have IATA codes is cost. No one is willing to stump up with the money to change all the computer systems and databases. It's not cheap considering how many individual systems there are.

If people are so concerned they should try to find out what their reservation code mean. Reservation codes like D56X9F have never been complained about. So what's the big deal if my flight number is FG6IQ98X?



A310/A319/20/21/A332/3/A343/6/A388/B732/5/7/8/B742/S/4/B752/B763/B772/3/W/E145/J41/MD11/83/90
User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25300 posts, RR: 22
Reply 20, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 6570 times:



Quoting Cloudyapple (Reply 19):
On the contrary IATA codes also cover some train, ferry and bus services. But they can also be given ICAO codes easily to make it universal for the whole transport industry.

I'm not sure ICAO would agree to permit use of their codes for activities that do not involve aviation. They're a very political organization (a United Nations agency) and getting all the member governments to agree on anything is usually difficult.

On the other hand, IATA, being an airline trade assocation and not a governmental body, can do anything they want with their codes, although if memory correct there was also quite a bit of initial reluctance to assign IATA codes to train/bus companies, railway stations etc.


User currently offlineTN757Flyer From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 6498 times:



Quoting Cloudyapple (Reply 19):
Because they are not abbreviations of anything. They are completely arbitrary alphanumeric characters someone thought up to represent the carrier concerned. And these do not need to mean anything.

 checkmark 

Although, even after all these years, it's still strange not to think of Frontier as FL (I always advocated a code switch with Airtran). Some of us will always associate codes with their old, long time owners, regardless of who might use them today. Going to three digits would be pretty confusing. The usage of numbers gives quite a few additional options too, although I do not believe any airline has a code with two numbers together as it's code.


User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25300 posts, RR: 22
Reply 22, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 6474 times:



Quoting TN757Flyer (Reply 21):
The usage of numbers gives quite a few additional options too, although I do not believe any airline has a code with two numbers together as it's code.

.

Yes, there's always at least one letter. Airlines actually do have an all-numeric 3-digit IATA code which is used for accounting purposes. It's the first 3 digits of every ticket number. A few examples:

AA - 001
CO - 005
NW - 012
UA - 016
AC - 014
BA - 125
LH - 220
CX - 160
QF - 081
LX - 724
SQ - 618


User currently offlineVV701 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 7531 posts, RR: 17
Reply 23, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 6442 times:



Quoting Ridgid727 (Reply 9):
On occasion, airlines request to be re-coded, as in the case of Air New Zealand, who up into sometime in the 80's had the code TE

Air New Zealand were allocated the IATA code TE because uintil 1965 they were known as TEAL, an acronym for Tasman Empire Airlines. Here is one of their Electras:

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Ray Massey



User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 25300 posts, RR: 22
Reply 24, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 6365 times:



Quoting VV701 (Reply 23):
Air New Zealand were allocated the IATA code TE because uintil 1965 they were known as TEAL, an acronym for Tasman Empire Airlines.

Close. It was Tasman Empire Airways.  Smile


User currently offlineArgonaut From UK - Scotland, joined Dec 2004, 422 posts, RR: 1
Reply 25, posted (6 years 1 month 3 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 6321 times:



Quoting Ridgid727 (Reply 9):
On occasion, airlines request to be re-coded, as in the case of Air New Zealand, who up into sometime in the 80's had the code TE



Quoting VV701 (Reply 23):
Air New Zealand were allocated the IATA code TE because uintil 1965 they were known as TEAL

IIRC, the change came about when long-haul TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways, code TE) merged with domestic NZNAC (New Zealand National Airways Corp., code NZ) to become Air New Zealand, and the combined airline adopted the more obvious of the two codes.



'the rank is but the guinea stamp'
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