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LatAmFlyer
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Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:42 pm

I apologize if this question has been asked/answered before, so please delete if applicable.

Why would airlines choose (or be forced to accept) IATA codes that don't self-identify the carriers themselves? I'm referring to airlines/cargo carriers like JetBlue (B6), Allegiant (G4), UPS (5X), and my dear old friend, Aerogal (2K), which I fly frequently here in Ecuador. These are only examples.

Compare these codes to the more sensible ones: United (UA), Air Berlin (AB) or American Airlines (AA).

Stumped here. Shed some light?

[Edited 2015-08-10 13:54:09]
 
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OzarkD9S
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:48 pm

Quite simply, they've run out of compatible codes with the proliferation of new airlines. For instance Asiana Airlines could be AA or AS but those codes have been assigned. They received the old Ozark Airlines code OZ which was available.
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larshjort
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:55 pm

There is a finite number of combinations.
What would you suggest for those airlines?
Jetblue: JB, JE, BL is already taken.
Allegiant: AL was used by Skyway Airlines, AG and AT is also used
UPS: UP, PS, US already used
Aerogal: AG is taken
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UA444
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:59 pm

Has NW and CO been reassigned?
 
vfw614
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:01 pm

Sometimes airlines trade designators, accompanied by a financial consideration from one side. An exmaple is Eurowings that traded in "NS" for "EW".
 
SpaceshipDC10
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:03 pm

Quoting UA444 (Reply 4):
Has NW and CO been reassigned?

Apparently not: http://www.iata.org/publications/Pages/code-search.aspx
 
Cubsrule
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:08 pm

Quoting OzarkD9S (Reply 1):
For instance Asiana Airlines could be AA or AS but those codes have been assigned. They received the old Ozark Airlines code OZ which was available.

Southwest is another good example. Air Namibia has SW, which makes sense since it was originally South West Air Transport.
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winterlight
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:12 pm

Virgin Atlantic had to make do with VS because Viasa had already taken VA.
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RyanairGuru
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:55 pm

Quoting winterlight (Reply 8):

Which was subsequently reassigned to V Australia, now Virgin Australia after Viasa went under.
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marosbts
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:11 am

Well, the issuance of 2 letter designators is covered under IATA resolution 762. I found a link to a IATA PSM and the resolution is on page 691

ftp://ftp.tais.ru/pub/doc/DOC1.pdf

You can read through, but basically - the 2 letter designators were initially designed to be only alphabetical - so you have 26*26 combinations which is 676 maximum. So - even in the good old times, it was too little. So only the oldest carriers really had a chance to get the "logical" designator as you described them.

IATA came up with some ideas initially to allow the same code to be assigned to 2 airlines in a controlled enviroment (not overlapping networks), but ultimately alphanumberic designators were used. This brings us to 36*36 combinations which is still only 1296 of them.
Out of those, there is still quite some number of 2 letter designators which can not be used and are "restricted for other use", quite a few are assigned to CRS like Amadeus (1A) or Galileo (1G) etc. So, with whats left, IATA has to do the best they can. If an airline fails, the code is reassigned, so some carriers got lucky - Nesma Airlines from Egypt got the 2 letter designator after SkyEurope - NE. Unfortunately, some carriers like JetBlue or Wizzair were not so lucky at the time of assignment only alphanumeric codes were free, so have to stick with what they have.

Change of 2 letter designators is quite unusuall, but - it does happen. Eurowings had a code NS before (originally NFD - Nurenberger Flug Dienst) and they petitioned IATA to swap that code with some small airline because - NS is kind of not really politically correct for a german airline. So the swap was done, but I think its the only one I can remember.
 
UA444
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:19 am

AL was able to get US after a while and effort.
 
marosbts
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:52 am

Quoting UA444 (Reply 11):
AL was able to get US after a while and effort.

I assume you mean American Airlines (AA) getting the US code - thats something different as its a merger and not a swap. IATA will not really allow swapping as that would most likely to "trading" with the desired airline codes and would create a mess administrating it on IATAs side.
 
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mayor
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:04 am

Quoting marosbts (Reply 12):

I assume you mean American Airlines (AA) getting the US code - thats something different as its a merger and not a swap. IATA will not really allow swapping as that would most likely to "trading" with the desired airline codes and would create a mess administrating it on IATAs side.

No, he's referring to Allegheny, which merged with Piedmont and became US Airways.
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XAM2175
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:15 am

Airlines used given a choice when applying for a two-character designator - the joke is that CSA Czech misunderstood the question and wrote "OK" in the box - but looking at the current form I don't see that question at all.

Unlike the ICAO three-letter designator though there's no requirement for the IATA code to bear an understandable relation to the airline's name so there's nothing to stop EasyJet being U2 or AirAsiaX being D7 and so on and so forth. Very much first-in-best-dressed.

Quoting marosbts (Reply 10):
Change of 2 letter designators is quite unusual, but - it does happen

Qantas changed from EM to QF in 1967 when they changed their name from Qantas Empire Airways to the current Qantas Airways.
 
ben175
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:21 am

Quoting XAM2175 (Reply 14):
Change of 2 letter designators is quite unusual, but - it does happen

Virgin Australia went from DJ to VA. I specifically remember they continued to operate with DJ for a few months after the name change, as I was on the last ever "DJ" coded flight out of Sydney to Perth before they changed to VA.
 
lutfi
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:59 am

Yep, even airlines that got founded 60-70 years ago don't have the "right" code. So Cathay is CX, because Canadian Pacific already had CP. Aeroflot didn't get AF. ANA is NH though, due to its original name Nippon Helicopter.

City codes never change, so still BOM and MAA.
 
ben175
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:00 am

Quoting XAM2175 (Reply 14):
Qantas changed from EM to QF in 1967 when they changed their name from Qantas Empire Airways to the current Qantas Airways.

QF also stands for "Qantas Flight", which makes complete sense.
 
N1120A
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:10 am

Quoting mayor (Reply 13):
No, he's referring to Allegheny, which merged with Piedmont and became US Airways.

Piedmont was acquired by US Air (it didn't become US Airways until the BA tie up years later.), well after it had become US Air. US Air was a name change by Allegheny to have a national name after Deregulation. Allegheny had grown out of absorbing Lake Central and Mohawk.
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:19 am

Quoting lutfi (Reply 16):
Aeroflot didn't get AF

I think Aeroflot chose SU since at the time it was from the Soviet Union.
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Eagleboy
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:19 am

Quoting LatAmFlyer (Thread starter):
Why would airlines choose (or be forced to accept) IATA codes that don't self-identify the carriers themselves? I'm referring to airlines/cargo carriers like JetBlue (B6), Allegiant (G4), UPS (5X),.......

Compare these codes to the more sensible ones: United (UA), Air Berlin (AB) or American Airlines (AA).

Stumped here. Shed some light?

First come, first served. Simple as
 
BoeingGuy
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:23 am

Quoting lutfi (Reply 16):
City codes never change, so still BOM and MAA.

Yep, and PEK, SGN and RGN.

I remember Hughes Airwest was RW. AIr California was XK and then later OC. Wasn't Aloha something like TS? Or was Air New Zealand TS?
 
steex
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:30 am

Quoting OzarkD9S (Reply 1):
Asiana Airlines could be AA or AS but those codes have been assigned. They received the old Ozark Airlines code OZ which was available.

Choosing "OZ" makes more sense when thinking about how "Asiana" is pronounced as opposed to how it looks on paper, though.
 
lpdal
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:35 am

I've always wondered why SkyWest's is OO. Seems like a really weird code given there are no O's in SkyWest.

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aerorobnz
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:36 am

Quoting BoeingGuy (Reply 21):
was Air New Zealand TS?

TE was NZ originally, due to being Tasman Empire Airways Limited (TEAL)
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B727skyguy
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:50 am

Quoting LPDAL (Reply 23):
I've always wondered why SkyWest's is OO. Seems like a really weird code given there are no O's in SkyWest.

OO came from Sun Aire, a PSP-based commuter airline that merged with SkyWest.

Quoting BoeingGuy (Reply 21):
Wasn't Aloha something like TS?

Aloha Airlines was originally TS. They eventually changed their code to AQ.

Another odd code was YX for Midwest Express Airlines. That code had previously been assigned to Will's Air.
 
WearyDrover
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:56 am

Quoting LPDAL (Reply 23):

I've always wondered why SkyWest's

There used to be an airline with a similar name in Australia - Skywest, now part of Virgin Australia. Its code was XR.
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flyingdoc787
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:20 am

SWISS is LX, which came from Crossair. However, I I don't know why Crossair was LX?

EVA Air is BR, which used to belong to British Caledonian.

Air China is CA, which came from CAAC, the old name of the airline of China.
 
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XAM2175
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:34 am

Quoting ben175 (Reply 15):
Virgin Australia went from DJ to VA.

Oh, I totally missed it - and the last time I flew Virgin it was still DJ. Slightly different though in that another part of the same company already held VA.

Quoting flyingdoc787 (Reply 27):
EVA Air is BR, which used to belong to British Caledonian.

The BR code was also used for a while on British Asia Airways flights to Taiwan, while BA still had the code available.

Similarly, Qantas used IM for Australia Asia Airways until they were privatised and could share the QF code ("operated by..."), and Japan Asia Airways used EG instead of JL.
 
LimaFoxTango
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:53 am

Is there a certain amount of time that must elapse before a code is reassigned?
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Unflug
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:05 am

Quoting flyingdoc787 (Reply 27):
However, I I don't know why Crossair was LX?

Maybe L=Luft=Air and X=Cross?
 
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MayaviaERJ190
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:08 am

I guess airlines do their best effort to have a code that is easy to remember and sometimes the results are unique. In Mexico, AeroMar, which couldn´t have AeroMéxico's AM, settled for the upside down version: VW. And yes, they do have compact planes (ATRs) and compact routes (short business hops).
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mayor
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:22 am

Quoting N1120A (Reply 18):
Piedmont was acquired by US Air (it didn't become US Airways until the BA tie up years later.), well after it had become US Air. US Air was a name change by Allegheny to have a national name after Deregulation. Allegheny had grown out of absorbing Lake Central and Mohawk.

Thanks for the clarification, but his assumption was wrong that it was about AA/US.
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ScottB
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:26 am

Quoting lutfi (Reply 16):
City codes never change, so still BOM and MAA.

That's not entirely true, as JFK originally had the code IDL (for Idlewild). The State of Maryland was also able to have BAL changed to BWI.
 
YULWinterSkies
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:51 am

Quoting lutfi (Reply 16):
City codes never change, so still BOM and MAA.

I think he referred to codes of airports in cities which changed names, such as Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and Chennai (formerly Madras). Using the new name, the old airport code has lost its sense, but no new airport code has come up.
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747WanSui
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:03 am

MS for EgyptAir came from its original name Misr Airlines.
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AIR MALTA
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:55 am

What about: AZ, AT, AH, AY, UL And FR?
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HELFAN
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 6:04 am

Finnair's AY comes from its original name Aero Oy which was founded in 1923. It was changed to Finnair only in the 60's
 
YLWbased
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 8:23 am

It always bother me that Hong Kong Express' code is UO while Hong Kong Airlines' code is HX. But with limited combination available, some younger airlines just have to take whatever is left in the pool.

YLWbased
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bjorn14
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:50 pm

Quoting LimaFoxTango (Reply 28):

Yes at least 6 months.
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UK_Dispatcher
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 2:57 pm

I always thought whoever chose the code for Safi Airways (Afghanistan) was having a laugh. 4Q - say it to yourself.

There are a number of 'controlled duplicate' codes, as others have alluded to. Iberworld (now Orbest) used the code TY, but given that they only operated charter flights, it was not used in GDS systems so there was little chance of any conflict with the primary owner of the TY code, Air Caledonie.

I often think it is a shame when a code previously allocated to a major airline ends up with a minor one, e.g. PA (formerly Pan Am, now AirBlue) and RG (formerly Varig, now Rotana Jet).
 
paneuropean
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:43 pm

I wonder why IATA isn't changing to 3 letter codes eg.

AAL
DAL
UAL
JTB

DLH
BAW
KLM
AFR

SIA
CPA
ANA

EHD
EMR
QAT
 
Andy33
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:47 pm

That would probably work as long as they change to the four character ICAO airport codes as well, otherwise people will just confuse the carrier with the destination.
 
mtnwest1979
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 3:55 pm

Quoting LPDAL (Reply 22):
I've always wondered why SkyWest's is OO. Seems like a really weird code given there are no O's in SkyWest.

Well they were QG before that, guess OO was an upgrade lol.
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superjeff
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:28 pm

Quoting BoeingGuy (Reply 20):
Wasn't Aloha something like TS?

Yes. They were founded as Trans Pacific Airways in 1948 in order to fly between Honolulu and Taiwan, which they never did (until much later under a subsidiary called "Aloha Pacific", IIRC, which didn't last long. Eventually, they were able to get the AQ which they operated on until they shut down.

Quoting mayor (Reply 31):
Quoting N1120A (Reply 18):
Piedmont was acquired by US Air (it didn't become US Airways until the BA tie up years later.), well after it had become US Air. US Air was a name change by Allegheny to have a national name after Deregulation. Allegheny had grown out of absorbing Lake Central and Mohawk.

Thanks for the clarification, but his assumption was wrong that it was about AA/US.

Huh? US Air did have a tie up with BA after their first Bankruptcy. BA invested in 25% ownership; then the old Piedmont route between Charlotte and London was operated by US on a wet lease basis with US's airplanes painted in BA colors. The OP was correct.
 
usflyer msp
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:39 pm

Quoting superjeff (Reply 43):
Huh? US Air did have a tie up with BA after their first Bankruptcy. BA invested in 25% ownership; then the old Piedmont route between Charlotte and London was operated by US on a wet lease basis with US's airplanes painted in BA colors. The OP was correct.

Actually, US did not become US Airways until 1997, shortly after the BA tie-up ended...

[Edited 2015-08-11 10:29:50]
 
burnsie28
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 4:50 pm

Quoting UA444 (Reply 3):
Has NW and CO been reassigned?

I have a feeling that it might be a while before either of those codes are used since both airlines had a very global identity unlike some of those others that quickly moved over.
 
Byrdluvs747
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:07 pm

The big question is will AA want to swap Envoy's current MQ code with US?
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eal
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:10 pm

Quoting XAM2175 (Reply 27):
EVA Air is BR, which used to belong to British Caledonian.

The BR code was also used for a while on British Asia Airways flights to Taiwan

Is there any relation between the old British Asia Airways and EVA, besides flying into Taiwan. I find it weird that EVA would want the BR code.
 
Andy33
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:27 pm

Quoting eal (Reply 47):
Is there any relation between the old British Asia Airways and EVA, besides flying into Taiwan. I find it weird that EVA would want the BR code.

I don't think it is a question of "want" - at any one time there are only a very limited number of possible 2-character codes that are available to be allocated, if airlines are given a choice at all it is a case choosing of the least worst from the list.

Airlines that were around when IATA started the code system had it easier!
 
SpaceshipDC10
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RE: Some Iata Codes Don't Make Sense

Tue Aug 11, 2015 5:45 pm

Quoting superjeff (Reply 43):
until much later under a subsidiary called "Aloha Pacific", IIRC, which didn't last long.

Indeed, still nice to see there once was a DC-10 flying for an airline named Aloha Pacific.

Question About Aloha Pacific Airlines (by ata757300 Jan 26 2011 in Civil Aviation)

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