1937: IATA Airport Abbreviations

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IATA Airport Abbreviations
IATA stands for International AirporT Abbreviation.
Title text: IATA stands for International AirporT Abbreviation.


This comic is making fun of the three-letter codes assigned to major airports in the world. These codes are overseen by the IATA (International Air Transport Association). Some airport codes are very intuitive, taking letters from the city name (e.g., DEN for Denver). Other codes are somewhat intuitive, taking a letter or two from the nearby city name but adding an additional letter (e.g., LAX for Los Angeles). Other codes make seemingly no sense at all (e.g., ORD for Chicago's O'Hare International, due to it formerly being named Orchard Field). In many cases, the airport codes appear to have been chosen (or invented) because they are also common abbreviations and acronyms. Randall is obviously confused by these codes, replying to his friend that he definitely knows what those mean without googling, basically revealing that he used Google to search for the codes, and has created a list for us to memorize. In fact, this list is complete nonsense, with some of the "airports" mentioned not even existing, and the existing airports are all paired with the wrong codes, except for Huntsville (HSV), San Diego (one of the instances of SAN) and Toronto Pearson (YYZ).

If we use the table provided, Randall's friend is flying into Edwards Air Force Base and then "down to whatever" -- not a real flight.[citation needed] In actuality, the friend is flying into Newark tonight and Detroit tomorrow.

The title text is a pun about the acronym IATA, stating it stands for International AirporT Abbreviation. This is as wrong as almost everything else here, because the real International Air Transport Association is not an organization only responsible for abbreviations in aviation. This acronym also leads to some redundancy in the title by making the true title of the comic be "International Airport Abbreviation Airport Abbreviations," which might be an example of RAS syndrome.

This comic could be inspired by the recent news about an Indian businessman charged with making a bomb threat at a Mumbai airport claiming he was misheard by a telephone operator while asking for the BOM to DEL flight status.

It may also be a reference to tongue-in-cheek 'teen texting code' explanations for older generations.

IATA Code Actual Assigned City/Airport Description in the comic Explanation
AMD Ahmedabad (India) Amsterdam Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Its airport (called Schiphol) has the IATA code AMS. "AMD" is also an abbreviated name for "Advanced Micro Devices", a company that makes computer processors and graphics cards, among other products.
ANC Anchorage (USA) Ankh-Morpork Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state featured in Discworld. ANC is also an abbreviated name for the African National Congress.
ATL Atlanta (USA) Atalantë Another name for J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional island of Númenor (which is in turn a reference to the sinking of Atlantis). This may also be an intentional misspelling of "Atlanta". ATL may also be an abbreviation for "above the line" - the area in an internet article or post containing the main content; as contrasted with BTL ("below the line") where readers' comments appear.
BAE Barcelonnette (France) Beijing Beijing is the capital of China, served by two airports: Beijing Capital (IATA: PEK) and Beijing Daxing (IATA: PKX). Both IATA codes are probably originated from Peking, alternate former spelling of the city's name. BAE Systems is the world's second-largest defense contractor, while "Bae" is a slang term meaning girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other. Randall has presumably assigned this to Beijing as, when pronounced as a word, rather than an abbreviation, it resembles the first syllable.
BLT Blackwater (Australia) Baltimore A "BLT" is a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich. Baltimore is served by two airports with the codes BWI and MTN.
BUF Buffalo (USA) Sunnydale Sunnydale is a fictional California city that serves as the primary setting for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
CLT Charlotte (USA) [CENSORED] The censored word may be "clitoris". Randall has used this word in the comic before (243: Appropriate Term, and 492: Scrabble), but it is censored here for comic effect.
DFW Dallas/Fort Worth (USA) Down For Whatever "Down for Whatever" is an expression used to indicate that one is okay with doing whatever one's friends are doing in a social situation, or whatever comes up during a social situation.
DTF not assigned Dartford "DTF" is an abbreviation used to indicate "Down To Fuck". Dartford is a town in Kent, UK, about 10 miles SE of London. It does not have an airport. The nearest is probably London City Airport, LCY. The name also resembles a portmanteau of Dartmouth and Harvard, two prominent and well-known Ivy League universities; given the American context of the webcomic, Randall could also have been using "Dartford" as an ironic reference to an exclusive college.
DTW Detroit (USA) Down To Whatever See "DFW". "Down to Whatever" could indicate that one is getting on a plane with the intention of being fine with whatever the plane's destination turns out to be.
DWI not assigned Delaware International "DWI" is an abbreviation for "Driving While Intoxicated" or "Driving While Impaired." Randall writes in the what if? book that Delaware has no commercial airports; in fact, Wilmington Airport (Delaware) has had intermittent commercial air service with gaps of several years in between. This entry is also a play on the nearby real airport BWI, Baltimore/Washington International Airport.
EWR Newark (USA) Edwards Air Force Base Edwards Air Force Base (which has the IATA code EDW) is a United States Air Force installation north of Los Angeles in southern California. It is notable for its pivotal role in NASA spaceflight development.
FFS not assigned Flagstaff Station "FFS" is an abbreviation for "For Fuck's Sake." "FLG" is the code for the Flagstaff, AZ airport. Wikipedia has a page titled "Flagstaff station" (lowercase 's'), which was a former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway depot, and is now an Amtrak station. However, Amtrak calls the station simply "Flagstaff", without the word "station", on their station lists. Melbourne, Australia also has a Flagstaff station, which has station code "FGS".
FHQ not assigned FHQWHGADS The string "fhqwhgads" appeared as the first part of the sender name in the email "i love you" sent to Strong Bad in the Homestar Runner cartoons; Strong Bad ended up writing a song dedicated to the "character", and, after this comic's release, Strong Bad's official Twitter account posted about the reference.
FYI not assigned Fayetteville "FYI" often stands for "For Your Information". Fresno Yosemite International Airport has the code FAT for Fresno Air Terminal. Fayetteville is the name of many cities in the United States. Fayetteville, NC is the only Fayetteville served by airports: POB and FAY.
HGM not assigned Hogsmeade Hogsmeade is a fictional location in the Harry Potter series.
HSV Huntsville (USA) Huntsville This is one where Randall and the IATA agree. It is worth noting that the Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center are both located in Huntsville and linked to NASA, which Randall worked for prior to October 2006.
IAD Washington (Dulles) (USA) Idaho (Boise) IAD is the symbol for Dulles International Airport (which was originally "DIA" but it was felt that could be confused when hand-written with "DCA", the sign for nearby Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport). The Idaho Falls airport is IDA, while Idaho (Boise) is BOI; Randall probably chose Boise as it is the largest and best-known city in Idaho.
IUD not assigned Washington (Dulles) An "IUD" is an intrauterine device, a form of birth control. The actual IATA code for Dulles is IAD (see above).
JFC not assigned Jefferson City "JFC" is an abbreviation for "Jesus Fucking Christ." JFK is John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York's main airport and one of the most famous in the world. Jefferson City is the state capital of Missouri served by the JEF airport, and also the name of several other cities.
KUL Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) Kingdom of Loathing Kingdom of Loathing is an online, browser-based RPG. It contains an International Airport, previously lacking a three digit code. Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of Malaysia.
LAX Los Angeles (USA) Las Angalas "Las Angalas" is a "Los Angeles" with every vowel replaced with an "a" character. It's sometimes used as a joking nickname for "Los Angeles." The Frank Black song "Los Angeles" uses this pronunciation.
LOL Lovelock (USA) Louisville "LOL" often stands for "Laughing Out Loud". Lovelock is a city in the state of Nevada. Louisville is the largest city in the state of Kentucky. The latter is served by the LJC and the SDF airport.
MDW Chicago (Midway) (USA) Midway Atoll Midway Atoll was the site of one of the most significant World War II Pacific naval battles and is the namesake of the Chicago airport. Its actual IATA code is MDY.
MIA Miami (USA) Colombo, Sri Lanka M.I.A. is the stage name of a rapper of Sri Lankan heritage, although as a supporter of separatists from the north and east, where her family are from, she might not appreciate being associated with the southern capital. Colombo, Sri Lanka is served by three airports: CMB, RML (domestic) and BYV (domestic, seaplanes only). The use of MIA for Colombo may be a reference to the fictional TV detective Columbo, whom one might have consulted in the case of a missing person. MIA also stands for "Missing In Action".
OMW not assigned Omaha Eppley Airfield in East Omaha, Nebraska, has an IATA code of OMA. "OMW" is an abbreviation for "On My Way."
ORD Chicago (O'Hare) (USA) Orlando O'Hare Airport was once known as Orchard Field Airport, hence ORD. Orlando is served by four airports: ORL, DWS, MCO and SFB.
PDX Portland (USA) Pordlanx Consider how LAX has a random "X" at the end. And "ORD" is an actual IATA code. Randall messes with "Portland" here in much the same way.
PHL Philadelphia (USA) Pittsburgh Pittsburgh International Airport has a IATA code of PIT. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are the two largest cities in Pennsylvania and are at opposite ends of the state, so Randall is teasing Pennsylvanians.
SAN San Diego (USA) San Diego
San Juan
San Jose
San Francisco
San Antonio
San Diego International Airport (San Diego, California) has SAN; nearby airports include Montgomery Field (MYF), MCAS Miramar (NKX), NAS North Island (NZY), Brown Field (SDM), and Gillespie Field (SEE).

There are several cities named San Juan or San Jose. Their airport codes are as follows:
San Juan, Puerto Rico: SJU and SIG.
San Juan, Argentina: UAQ.
San Jose, California, USA: SJC.
San Jose, Costa Rica: SJO.
San Jose, Mexico: SJD.
San Jose, Philippines: SJI

San Francisco, CA has the airport code of SFO.
San Antonio, TX has the airport code of SAT.

Randall is perhaps commenting on the arbitrariness of assigning SAN to San Diego rather than any of the other cities starting with "San"; his plan to assign the code SAN to every place name beginning "San" would likely cause chaos for travelers.
SEA Seattle/Tacoma (Sea-Tac) (USA) [Indicates Water Landing] This is presumably a reference to the fact that "SEA" could be interpreted as "Sea". Unlike some other major airports (e.g., San Francisco International Airport and LaGuardia Airport), SeaTac is not actually on a major body of water, but missing the airport could still result in a water landing, as it is located only a few miles east of Puget Sound between the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, WA. Seattle has a water-landing-only airport on Lake Union run by Kenmore Air, but its IATA code is LKE. SEA is also a common abbreviation for Southeast Asia.
SMH Sapmanga (Papua New Guinea) Smithfield "SMH" often stands for "Shaking My Head". Sapmanga is a location in Papua New Guinea. There are various cities named Smithfield around the world, none of them having airports.
STL St. Louis (USA) Silent Hill Silent Hill is a fictional city appearing in the series of video games and movies with the same name. .stl is a file format, used to store 3D models intended for 3D printing.
SWF Newburgh (USA) Sherwood Forest .swf is the file extension for ShockWave Flash files. "SWF" can also stand for "Single White Female" in personal ads. In legend, Sherwood Forest was the location of Robin Hood's hideout, and Doncaster Sheffield Airport (IATA DSA) was formerly called Robin Hood Airport.
TBA Tabibuga (Papua New Guinea) Tribeca "TBA" often stands for "To Be Announced". Tabibuga is a location in Papua New Guinea. Tribeca (original styled TriBeCa) is an area in New York City, which does not have an airport. The closest airport to it is Downtown Manhattan Heliport (JRB). "TBA" is a similar indication of uncertainty to "TBC", which often stands for "To Be Confirmed".
TMI Tumlingtar (Nepal) Turkmenistan International "TMI" often stands for "Too Much Information". Tumlingtar is a city in Nepal. Turkmenistan is a country in Central Asia which has six airports: ASB, CRZ, KRW, MYP, TAZ and URL. None of them are called "Turkmenistan International", but KRW is called "Turkmenbashi International".
YYY Mont-Joli (Canada) Toronto Downtown Mont-Joli is a city in Quebec, Canada. The small airport in downtown Toronto is Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which has an actual IATA code of YTZ. This may be a play on the below designation for the larger Toronto airport, YYZ. It could also be Randall asking "why why why" some of these codes are so odd. Like YTZ, most airports in Canada have IATA code designations beginning with the letter Y, as many codes were created by adding the letter Y to preexisting two letter National Weather Station city designations.
YYZ Toronto (Canada) Toronto Pearson This one is correct. The band Rush is from Toronto and named an instrumental song after the airport call sign. See YYZ (instrumental).


[A list with abbreviations and their meaning is shown in two columns.]
[On top left the header reads:]
Confused by those airport abbreviations used by your friends who fly a lot?
Just memorize this list!
[On top right an iMessage conversation is shown:]
[There is a text in grey, on the left:]
I'm flying into EWR tonight, then DTW tomorrow.
[Answer (in blue, two message bubbles on the right):]
Ok, cool
I definitely know what those mean without Googling
[The list:]
AMD Amsterdam TMI Turkmenistan International
BAE Beijing LAX Las Angalas
ORD Orlando EWR Edwards Air Force Base
IAD Idaho (Boise) PHL Pittsburgh
JFC Jefferson City SWF Sherwood Forest
IUD Washington Dulles KUL Kingdom of Loathing
FYI Fayetteville STL Silent Hill
LOL Louisville BUF Sunnydale
ATL Atalante TBA Tribeca
HGM Hogsmeade SMH Smithfield
OMW Omaha BLT Baltimore
ANC Ankh-Morpork YYY Toronto Downtown
HSV Hunstville YYZ Toronto Pearson
SAN San Diego MIA Colombo, Sri Lanka
SAN San Juan CLT [Censored]
SAN San Jose FHQ Fhqwhgads
SAN San Francisco FFS Flagstaff Station
SAN San Antonio DTF Dartford
DWI Delaware International MDW Midway Atoll
DFW Down for Whatever PDX Pordlanx
DTW Down to Whatever SEA [Indicates Water Landing]

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CLT is Charlotte Douglass International, but maybe the [censored] tag is referring to what this acronym sounds like when it's pronounced phonetically? 16:01, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

Maybe someone just flew in or out of it and realized how messed up it is.  :) (I live in Charlotte and fly 4 times a year) -- 14:19, 5 January 2018 (UTC)

IATA actually stands for [Air Transport Association]. Nutster (talk) 16:12, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

Ankh-Morpork is from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Hogsmeade is from Harry Potter. Kingdom of Loathing is a web-based multiplayer game. Sunnydale is from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BUF). fhqwhgads is from a Strong Bad email (Homestar Runner). 16:15, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

The Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (Downtown Toronto) actually uses the call sign YTZ, not YYY. Nutster (talk) 16:18, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

List of the codes and airport names
AMD  Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport
BAE  Barcelonnette – Saint-Pons Airport
ORD  O'Hare International Airport
IAD  Washington Dulles International Airport
JFC  -
IUD  -
FYI  -
LOL  Derby Field
ATL  Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
HGM  - 
OMW  -
ANC  Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
HSV  Huntsville International Airport (Carl T. Jones Field)
SAN  San Diego International Airport
DWI  -
DFW  Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
DTW  Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport
TMI  Tumlingtar Airport
LAX  Los Angeles International Airport
EWR  Newark Liberty International Airport
PHL  Philadelphia International Airport
SWF  Stewart International Airport
KUL  Kuala Lumpur International Airport
STL  Lambert–St. Louis International Airport
BUF  Buffalo Niagara International Airport
TBA  Tabibuga Airport
SMH  Sapmanga Airport
BLT  Blackwater Airport
YYY  Mont-Joli Airport
YYZ  Toronto Pearson International Airport
MIA  Miami International Airport
CLT  Charlotte Douglas International Airport
FHQ  -
FFS  -
DTF  -
MDW  Midway International Airport  
PDX  Portland International Airport
SEA  Seattle–Tacoma International Airport

Jefe9247 (talk) 16:33, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

Could "Las Angalas" be the way Tommy Wiseau pronounces it? Tait marconi (talk) 20:17, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

Re SWF being Sherwood Forest. Robin Hood airport, nearish to the historic location of Sherwood Forest actually exists. Sadly the IATA code is DSA (Doncaster Sheffield airport) - Putters -- Putters (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I think that substituting PHL for Pittsburgh's airport might also be a jab at how Facebook got confused a few months ago, labeling posts from Pittsburgh as originating in Philadelphia. -- FuzzyBoots (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Possibly also relevant that quite a few of these are common abbreviations used in text-based communication (e.g. LOL, FYI, FFS, TMI, etc.). I wonder if it's something like https://xkcd.com/1015/, where once you've memorised these abbreviations you can't help but think of the (annoying and incorrect) airports that they stand for when reading text messages from others. 23:00, 3 January 2018 (UTC)

I think KIX should be added as well, it stands for Kansai International Airport. Boeing-787lover 05:28, 5 January 2018 (UTC) -- Xkcdreader52 (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Major Omission

i'd like to add BHD -- Baggage Handlers' Decision. MCMXLVII (talk) 02:34, 4 January 2018 (UTC)

Also: HIJ - hijacking; ISS - self-explanatory141.101.76.16 09:50, 4 January 2018 (UTC)
A Question

The page has the line "Randall notes in the what if? book that Delaware has no airports. This entry is also a play on the nearby real airport BWI, Baltimore-Washington International." Which what-if is this from?

-- 16:49, 4 January 2018 (UTC)

The chapter in the book is "Flyover States: Which US state is actually flown over the most?" Rtanenbaum (talk) 18:16, 4 January 2018 (UTC)

SeaTac isn't esp close to water (closest is >1 mile, perpendicular to runway orientation), although some of the flight patterns have segments over Puget Sound [Flight Patterns]. Still, nothing like LGA or SFO where a short/long can put the plane in the water. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Another Missing Airport

What about FUK? The first time I saw this one, I checked with my boss. It is for Fukuoka, Japan. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I was disappointed not to see Montreal's weird-ass code YUL in here (until I read the chart and found out nearly none are real), but it's nice to still see an explanation of the Y, LOL! NiceGuy1 (talk) 05:58, 5 January 2018 (UTC)

I wanted to see HMB (Sohag International Airport) (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
I'm still disappointed that my local airport (for Dunedin, New Zealand) has the unfortunate abbreviation DUD. 11:53, 6 January 2018 (UTC)

In the explanation it mentions that Dartford is likely a portmanteau of Dartmouth and Harvard, but I would have thought Dartmouth and Oxford would be more of a match. Is there a reason for those two specifically? 15:24, 17 June 2019 (UTC)

ok so i knew their actual meanings and play kol, so the kuala lumpur one (kul) being changed to "kingdom of loathing" made me say just 1 thing: ffs, randall, i know "u" looks like "o" but no need to say it An user who has no account yet (talk) 00:51, 17 September 2023 (UTC)