One code that has never ceased to baffle me belongs to the biggest airline failure of the year. How on Earth did Jet Airways get 9W? If codes are visualised as a grid/matrix, 9W comes at the very end of the matrix of codes of the 1A type (digit followed by letter), and I think that codes near the beginning of the matrix (beginning with A) are much more desirable than those at the end.
SmartLynx, previously LatCharter, is 6Y = sexy.
Same goes for Alsie Express which have 6I
You are missing the big one. IndiGo chose the 6E code precisely because it sounds like ‘sexy’. When AirAsia India launched, there was an article in the Times of India
that had a paragraph on the IATA codes of some Indian airlines.
Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia has scored a high five when it comes to getting an airline code. The JV, AirAsia India Pvt. Ltd. (AAIPL), has got ‘I5’ as its airline code and becomes the only Indian carrier to have a smart code apart from IndiGo which has ‘6E’—to rhyme with ‘sexy’—as its code.
GoAir’s G8 is closer to great, if stretched a bit. All other Indian airlines have either abbreviations of their names or random codes. Air India has AI code. Jet Airways, JetKonnect and SpiceJet have 9W, S2 and SG as their rather unimaginative codes.
AAIPL CEO Mittu Chandilya had told TOI earlier this month that he wanted a number and an alphabet in the airline’s code. Clearly, he came up with a smart one with I5.
Of course, from India we also have Vistara, which is the first non-British airline to have the ‘UK’ code.
Among non-Indian airlines, some interesting codes that have no explanation that I know of are as follows (plenty of Chinese airlines like GS, HO, JD, MF and PN):
- AT: Royal Air Maroc
- BR: EVA Air (no relation whatsoever to British Caledonian)
- DD: Nok Air
- DY: Norwegian Air Shuttle (every code in the Norwegian group begins with D: DY, D8, DI, DN)
- FD: Thai AirAsia
- FR: Ryanair
- FV: Rossiya (its ICAO code, SDM, is equally random)
- GK: Jetstar Japan (and formerly Laker Airways)
- GS: Tianjin Airlines
- HO: Juneyao Airlines
- HV: Transavia
- JD: Capital Airlines (and formerly Japan Air System)
- JT: Lion Air
- KA: Cathay Dragon (perhaps inspired by Kai Tak?)
- LY: El Al Israel Airlines
- MF: Xiamen Air
- MI: SilkAir
- MT: Thomas Cook Airlines (R.I.P.)
- NX: Air Macau
- OU: Croatia Airlines (they could have chosen HR, following Austrian’s lead in choosing OS)
- OZ: Asiana Airlines (something Qantas might have utilised)
- PG: Bangkok Airways
- PN: West Air
- RB: Syrian Air
- UB: Myanmar National Airlines
- UL: SriLankan Airlines
- UX: Air Europa (a code better associated with interface design)
- WB: RwandAir
- WY: Oman Air (self-explanatory: WHY?!)
Of course we have the famous AK (AirAsia), CX, CZ, EK, EY, MH, PR, QF, SQ, SV, TG, etc. where the first letter of the code matches the first letter of the airline, but the second letter is very random. Then there is the reverse case; the second letter makes sense but not the first:
- DT: TAAG Angola Airlines
- TM: LAM Mozambique Airlines
- KM: Air Malta
- YM: Montenegro Airlines
- OM: MIAT Mongolian Airlines
Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the first two are both Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa.
Sterling Airways had NB which stood for Nordisk Bustrafik (Nordic bustraffic/transport).
When the travel agency Tjæreborg started in 1950, they operated bus tours from Denmark to Spain under the name "Nordisk Bustrafik", when Sterling Airways was created in 1962 by the same travel agency, they took NB as a tribute to their "heritage"
Today, Tjæreborg (spelled as Tjäreborg) is present only in Finland, which is a decidedly non-Scandinavian country. A strange case of a Scandinavian name being used in a non-Scandinavian country. Fortunately Tjäreborg (along with Spies in Denmark, and Ving in Norway and Sweden, as well as Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia) were unaffected by the collapse of the Thomas Cook Group.
That said, DK is an extremely appropriate code for Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia, as it is based in Denmark. Similarly DE for Condor (Germany), ID for Batik Air (Indonesia) and ZH for Shenzhen Airlines (not only because of ShenZHen, but also because the Chinese name for China, zhongguo
, begins with ZH). Similarly for all those British airlines that had the UK code before Vistara came along.
I assume all the airlines with numbered codes were just picking up available pairs of characters... B6, 3M, G4, Y4, 3U, etc.
Good examples of letter–number combinations that make absolutely no sense at all:
- Latin America: Y4 (Volaris), 4O (Interjet) and H2 (Sky Airline). At the other end of the spectrum is JA (JetSmart). Also BW (Caribbean Airlines), which inherits its code from BWIA West Indies Airways.
- Europe: U2 (easyJet), X3 (TUI fly Deutschland), 0B (Blue Air; the only code I know of that begins with a zero), 9U (Air Moldova; the same strange logic as neighbour Jet Airways).
- Middle East and Africa: G9 (Air Arabia), 6H (Israir Airlines), 8Q (Onur Air), 8U (Afriqiyah Airways).
- Eastern Asia: D7 (AirAsia X, especially given that Thai and Indonesian AirAsia X have XJ and XT, respectively); as well as 5J (Cebu Pacific Air) and Z2 (Philippines AirAsia, though this comes from Zest Airways).