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You're Going Where?

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If you're like me, the three letter city codes our industry uses for airports are confusing. I'm in the air flying from RSW , in a few months we'll open IAD, getting from SMF to SDF is difficult. Is Birmingham BHM or BMH? How in the world do you come up with MCI for the airport in Kansas City (better yet, how is Kansas City in Missouri?) Come on, those of us who live by intuition can never get where we're going by ourselves. MAF , MCO, BDL, and SNA ? I think it is all a bunch of CRP if you ask me. Thank goodness it is DAL or I would never get home. Oh, by the way, Southwest used to have its own two-letter city codes. Think the three letter ones are confusing? I can't remember the codes off the top of my head but I bet there's a few of you out there that do. (For those of you who have no idea of what Richard is talking about, go here.)
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We only have 17,576 possible airport code combinations with three letters. How soon will it be before we run out of codes?
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Interesting calculation Chris. It'll probably be when HEL freezes over. On second thought, since HEL is in Finland it will probably be longer.
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What does SMU designate?
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Why that would be the Harvard of the South, Southern Methodist University. Oh...you meant aviation wise? That would be Sheep Mountain, Alaska Brian
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Unfortunately smaller general aviation airports are closing at an alarming rate so I don't think running out of codes will be an issue. Don't forget about ICAO standards either with the 4 digit code. (i.e. KMML is in Minnesota while YMML is in Australia).
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For real, this is one of the funnier posts. Well done. Just the other day I quizzed my friend on city codes, see if she could figure out some of our more confusing ones (BDL??) In her words: "Who on earth came up with these things???"
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Some of the codes actually do make sense if you know the name of the airport: SDF: Louisville (Standiford Field) RSW: Fort Meyeres (Southwest Florida International) BDL: Hartford (Bradley International) MCO: Orlando (Use to be called McCoy Air Force Base (or Field, I forget which)) SNA: Orange County (Santa Ana) LAX: Los Angeles (they just added the "X" to the old two letter code. (in the 1930's and earlier, the codes were only 2 letters)) Not all airports have 3 letter codes. Many of the general aviation airports have 3 or 4 character codes such as 3A1 or 41TX. For a list of all airport codes, see the FAA's publication "Location Identifiers" available at http://www.faa.gov/ATpubs/
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Richard, you left out one of my favorites - MSY. It actually makes sense. It stands for Moisant Stock Yards http://flymsy.com/faq.htm. Its cool MSY publishes that trivia tidbit on their website. Jeremiah, as far as I know, BDL is just Bradley abbreviated. Is there more to it?
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Have a question for you. I love southwest, it is convienent from my home at MacArthur Airport in Islip NY, some of our family moved to West Palm and now will be using you more. The question is are you ever anticipating having flights to Myrtle Beach SC (direct flight) from MacArthur. The only airline that I can find is Spirit out of LaGuardia that has a direct flight, but is extremely expensive it cost us $1500 for 4 people, then 3 days before we left, I went on line to check out ticket prices and found a $78.00 fare each way, when I called spirit , they weren't helpful and said to cancel the flight and rebook it, but no guarantees. Then she said the flight was booked, which in fact, when we were on the plane there were at least 11 seats unoccupied. Besides to park at laguardia for 8 days was $261.00 ouch. Sheri
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Ha, ha! I've been wondering lately how some of these cities get the codes they do-for example, Orlando's being MCO! Now I see. I have quite a few memorized (& I'll keep practicing those, of course), but am working on memorizing the others so I'll be ready! :) P.S. Richard, the senior minister at my church graduated from SMU, but I know it was before you did!
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I love Southwest Airlines. Their whole staff is motivated, friendly, professional and best of all...arrive early or at least on time. I have flown thousands and thousands of miles for my job....and I hate the thought of assigned seating. You can't help but watch and notice peoples' habits while wating for a flight. I think what will happen is the fewer people will show up at the gate early...and will be stumbling over one another trying to get to their assigned seats. I like showing up early...being first with an A boarding pass and choosing my front row or wing seat. The late comers will be the ones' that will hold everything up with their six oversized bags, talking on their cell phones and standing near the cockpit waiting for the bathroom. Please Southwest....no assigned seats. thanks
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How about ORD in Chicago? It is short for Orchard field. DTW is for Detroit and Wayne county. Though it isn't really in Detroit. PTK isnt in Pontiac either.
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I remember when I went into orientation to be a Reservations Agent 10 1/2 years ago. Fewer cities then thank goodness. In order to start training I had to pass a test with all of our city codes on it. I tried to do word association and MCO will forever be "Mickey and Company" to me.
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As a life-long resident of Kansas City, I am pretty sure to say that the MCI code for the Kansas City airport was derived from the airports' old name, Mid-Continent International. Of course the general public uses KCI when referring to the airport. As to why Kansas City is in Missouri? I am not claiming to be an expert on this, but I believe the city was named before either Kansas or Missouri became states. The city name was taken from the Kansas Territory. In the early days Kansas City was actually called the Town of Kansas. When Missouri became a state(several years before Kansas got statehood) and the state boundaries were formed, most of the land area of Kansas City fell on the Missouri side of the border. Hence, you have Kansas City, Missouri. But lying just on the other side of the state line is Kansas City, Kansas. KCK has it's own seperate government, etc. from KCMO. One could say that KCMO has more of an identity as being known as "the Kansas City" with the main downtown business district, Country Club Plaza, professional sports teams, amusement parks, etc. The Kansas side of the metro area has much to offer including the fairly new Kansas Speedway, outdoor ampitheatre, and annual Renaissance festval in KCK. But I like to think of Kansas City as the whole metro area(including both sides of the state line).
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Slightly off subject, but related - Why is Southwest sometimes referred to as WN?
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Rickenbacker Airport in Columbus, Ohio, is LCK. It used to be Lockbourne Air Force Base. SJC=San Jose, California, USA. SJO=San Jose, Costa Rica. Who decides who gets what? How did Montreal get YUL?
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About 10 years ago, FAT (Fresno Air Terminal) officials tried to become FIT (Fresno/Yosemite InTernational). True story. Guess the FAA would not let them go on a diet. Unfortunately Southwest did not continue service at FAT when they purchased Morris Air. Guess they didn't FIT into the WN route system.
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Jim, that is the code assigned to them. SW was already in use by air nambia when they incorporated. Probably short for WiN. 😉
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I'm just chiming in with Rob F. to echo my disappointment that Southwest doesn't get FAT. What gives? Oh and FYI Rob, I believe Fresno is trying to change their code to FYI...
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Very nice topic, and of particular interest to me as a trivia nerd. Growing up in Dallas (DAL) with a real passion for planes and airports, I used to pride myself on knowing a whole lot of the airport codes. That was back in those childhood and teenage years when my "hard drive" was not already occupied by more pressing facts and there was plenty of storage space for 'useless trivia'. Now at the mid-century mark, I find that my RAM has been exhausted and I badly need an additional drive for storage! As a number of folks above have alluded to, being familiar with the original names of airports and/or the military air bases that preceded them, is a big help in understanding the three-letter codes. For example, I remember when Hobby (HOU) was the only airport in Houston. Then, the new and modern Intercontinental Airport of Houston opened and appropriately took those (IAH) initials for its name. But now that northside airport is called George Bush Airport (a nod to #41), so some day, our grandchildren will look at this blog and ask how we get "IAH" out of Bush Airport! Here's a nice and informative website about this: http://www.skygod.com/asstd/abc.html Interestingly enough, those of us who are "road warriors" and frequent travelers for our jobs know that we have to have a place to sleep when we fly to a town. Holiday Inn uses a five letter code to internally identify their various hotel locations, and in quite a few cases, the first three letters are derived from the airport code for that city and then followed by two letters which generally refer to the "name" of the hotel property. For example, the Holiday Inn near the Convention Center in Lubbock is known in their system as LBBCC, drawing on the LBB for Lubbock. The Holiday Inn properties in the Dallas area begin with "DAL" and many of the Houston locations start with "HOU". This always helps me to explain why after 30+ years of staying at Holiday Inns, I'm able to tell the younger reservation agents for them why their Holiday Inn Express in San Angelo is known as SJTEX (SJT = San Angelo, TX) and their Express in Waco begins with ACT (ACT = Waco, TX). I do hope this is of as much interest to my fellow bloggers as it is to me, and that it isn't just another case of that frustrating three-letter code: TMI... ha ha :) Kim
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I wonder what mnemonics the new hires use to help them remember all of the odd codes on their city code test? Good trivia and hilarious comments. Thank goodness that San Jose, California is SJC and not SJO, or else I wouldn't be able to find my way home too! However, Costa Rica wouldn't be a bad place to live...
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Actually, the full name for IAH is George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Airport codes are difficult to change. SUX (Souix City) is trying to change their code. You can get it changed if you have high placed idiots, er, politicians on your side. For example, BWI used to be BAL. Against regulations that say airport identifiers can only be changed for safety reasons and not for marketing reasons, it was changed to BWI.
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Everyone knows that MCO stands for "Mickey Controls Orlando". I still slip sometimes when I'm checking bags or selling a ticket and call Midland "Mafia" because that's how I taught myself when I memorized it (MAF). So- if any of you are ever flying to Midland from Tampa and the guy behind the counter says you have 2 bags checked to Mafia, you'll know what I meant. No one has mentioned Nashville (BNA). Or Spokane (GEG).
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Hey Chuck, GEG stands for Geiger Field, the airport's original name. As for BNA, airport codes were originally radio call letters. Anything starting with K or W were reserved for commercial broadcast stations (west of the Mississippi they start with K and W for stations to the east, with a few grandfathered stations like WFAA, WBAP, and WRR in Dallas.) The Navy reserved N for their locations, so that is why Nashville doesn't start with N, why Kansas City doesn't start with K and Washington Dulles and National don't start with W. Chris asked about YUL (by the way, when I was with Delta, we were taught that YUL have to remember Montreal. Almost all Canadian airports.. start with Y, like Vancouver is YVR and Toronto is YYZ. Oh MCO comes from the airport's original name, McCoy AFB. The original civilian airport in Orlando is ORL but its runways were too small for the original jets. Those jets went to the air force base. When I was young, like 8 or 9, I remember Delta would advertise its jet service to Orlando as serving Orlando McCoy. Sometimes you fly right over ORL on approach to MCO. By the way, when ICAO came along with their four letter codes, the proscription on using K went away, at least for their codes. The ICAO codes for US Airports is the FAA three letter code with a K in front of it--DAL is KDAL with ICAO. Internationally it is a bit harder because London Gatwick (LGW) is EGKK. Check out this websiteÂ
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The BNA for Nashville, TN comes from the name Berry field, NAshville.
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Why isn't dallas called LUV?
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BNA - I think it was originally named Bates Field ... I think there is a plaque in the Nashville terminal to that effect.
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Roy, Its because Herb doesn't have QUITE enough clout... :-) Actually, Roy, you may already know that Love Field in Dallas was originally an Army air base that opened in October of 1917. It was named in honor of Army 1st Lt. Moss Lee Love, who had been killed in a plane crash in San Diego in September of 1913. Hopefully, Lt. Love would have been proud to know that not only has his name been associated with a very important airport for the last 89 years, but the symbolism of his last name has inspired an attitude within an airline that was born at and is headquartered at that airport! Yes, I do LUV Love Field! Kim P. S. If you are interested in more of the fascinating history of my favorite airport, a Dallas-based aviation expert, Mr. George Cearley, published a great book in 1989 titled "A Pictorial History of Airline Service at Dallas Love Field". This book is currently out of print, but you might find a copy available on Amazon.com or eBay sometime. Here is the info on the book from Amazon's website: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006ETA3S/sr=1-9/qid=1155449491/ref=sr_1_9/102-0428418-0630507?ie=UTF8&s=books Good luck!
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ISP = ISLIP Great Little Airport with a Great Southwest Heart
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When will Southwest fly into MSP?
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I would have the problem of what code to use - Memphis, Tennessee has a code mem, but no Southwest flights out of this city. Why in the world don't they? Little Rock has a flight, and it is a much smaller city than Memphis.
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Richard I was going through my mid life crisis and rather than buy the car or have the affair (which my wife thought would be the cheaper option) I opted to go back to grad school. Luckily I was smart enough join one of those executive programs at UNH. Anyway this semester we have marketing and my individual project is Southwest Airlines. Can you steer me towards any good journals or books that discuss what is obviously a great marketing plan (Please note sincere suck up) Thanks
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MCI for KC MO is because of the old name for the airport, Mid Continent International Airport. The airport itself is Kansas City International Airport, but airport codes can not start with the letter K, thus, that's why it's MCI and not KCI. The old airport code was MKC-Municipal Airport Kansas City. The reason it's in Missiouri is because there was a Missouri state before a Kansas State. Kansas is the name for the old Indian tribe in the area. Thus there was Town of Kansas to become Kansas City that was/is in what became the state of Missouri and the State of Kansas was first the Kansas Territory that later became the State of Kansas. The airport code and the city/state is not confusing if one knows the history behind it all.
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SMF to SDF is connectable with MDW, PHX, or LAS or STL. Best combination is 1071/2771 going east and 2541/2398 going west in terms in time from first departure to final arrival.
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Why isn't Southwest in FAT/Fresno? All the other airlines continue to charge more than double because SW still isn't there. It has alot more people than Boise too. The other airlines exploit Southwests absence, every day.
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When is Southwest coming to Greensboro...GSO... Tired of driving to RDU Hurry Help needed in GSO
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After becoming seriously disabled in the year 2000, fully paralyzed from the neck down to my toes and requiring a motorized wheelchair and pressure support ventilator to breath, I never dreamed I would be able to use an airline to travel again. Southwest made a dream come true and what seemed impossible an effortless, enjoyable, safe and wonderful experience. After speaking to Southwest manager Joann, at Islip MacArthur airport, my caregiver and I where guided trough the best possible acessibility options, the most comfortable flying options, had every guideline clearly explained to use, and where encouraged to enjoy flying again. We now fly as often as we can with Southwest because their kind and always professional staff are always eager to assist us in any way. Even Southwests incredibly skilled pilots have assisted us and thanked us for traveling with them! Not only is Southwest one of the only airlines that are proactive with regard to the needs of people who happen to have disabilities, they encouraged me to pursue my dream and made it come true!
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Being a frequent flier form the Bay area relocated to Fresno, this community will imbrace and support Southwest flying out of FAT. I guarantee it. Give FAT an opportunity, your pilots and flight attendants would love to be based from this area.
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I agree with the above that Southwest needs to give FAT a chance. I know many people that drive to SJC, OAK, and LAX to take SWA flights. Ridership levels between FAT and LAS are especially high. I KNOW that Southwest would be able to easily fill three or four flights a day to LAS with O/D traffic alone. LAX, OAK, and SAN would also make good initial destinations. Fresno has a huge pent-up demand for REAL low-fare service (not that fake low-fare service that Frontier claimed to offer). BRING SOUTHWEST TO FRESNO!
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BNA is Berry Field. We've never had an airport called Bates. It's been McConnell, Sky Harbor, and then Berry Field(The reason the former weren't used for the code is because prior to the three terminals that have existed at the current location the airport not only switched terminals but parts of town.) Hope that clears it up and interests somebody because it interests me.
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We need a good stable airline to come to FAT. We've had a couple airlines come in and try the discounted airfare to neighboring cities but they didn't last very long. I believe WN has what it takes to offer an alternative to UA/CO/AA/DL (Skywest), HP, US and Allegiant Air (G4). I know I would definitely be happy to fly out of FAT instead of driving to SJC/SMF/SFO.
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Anyone know if Southwest has plans to soon fly into Greensboro Airport?
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Southwest Airlines will never, ever come to Fresno. I'm trying to think negative. Expect the worst. Maybe a surprise. Someday.