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.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Expansion needed. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This comic is making fun of the three-letter codes assigned to mostly all 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.

If we use the table provided, Randall's friend is flying into Edwards Air Force Base and then down to whatever. This is not a typical flight. In actuality, the friend is flying into Newark tonight and Detroit tomorrow.

IATA Code Actual Assigned City/Airport Description in the comic Explanation
AMD Ahmedabad Amsterdam Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Its airport (called Schiphol) has the IATA code AMS. "AMD" is also a brand of computer processors.
ANC Anchorage Ankh-Morpork Ankh-Morpork is a fictional city-state featured in Discworld.
ATL Atlanta 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".
BAE Barcelonnette Beijing Beijing is the capital of China. Its airport has the IATA code PEK (possibly from Peking, alternate former spelling of its name). "Bae" is a slang term meaning girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other.
BLT Blackwater Baltimore A "BLT" is a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich.
BUF Buffalo Sunnydale Sunnydale is a fictional California city that serves as the primary setting for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
CLT Charlotte [CENSORED] The censored word may be "clitoris." Randall has used this word in the comic before (243: Appropriate Term), but it is censored here for comic effect.
DFW Dallas/Fort Worth Down For Whatever "Down for Whatever" is an expression used to indicate that one is okay with doing whatever his or her friends are doing in a social situation, or whatever comes up during a social situation.
DTF not assigned Dartford "DTF" is an acronym used to indicate "Down To Fuck". Dartford is a town in Kent, UK, about 10 miles SE of London.
DTW Detroit 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 acronym for "Driving While Intoxicated" or "Driving While Impaired." Randall notes in the what if? book that Delaware has no airports.
EWR Newark Edwards Air Force Base Edwards Air Force Base (which has the IATA code EDW) is a United States Air Force installation in southern California, about 22 miles (35 km) northeast of Lancaster and 15 miles (24 km) east of Rosamond.
FFS not assigned Flagstaff Station "FFS" is an acronym for "For Fuck's Sake".
FHQ not assigned FHQWHGADS The string "fhqwhgads" appeared as the sender name in a spam email sent to Strong Bad in the Homestar Runner cartoons; Strong Bad ended up writing a song dedicated to the "character".
FYI Fresno Yosemite International Fayetteville "FYI" often stands for "For Your Information". Fresno Yosemite International also has the code FAT
HGM not assigned Hogsmeade Hogsmeade is a fictional location in the Harry Potter series.
HSV Huntsville Huntsville This is one where Randall and the IATA agree. HSV is better known as the Hue-Saturation-Value color space or German soccer club Hamburger SV. It is also Herpes Simplex Virus, a venereal disease.
IAD Washington (Dulles) Idaho (Boise) IAD is the symbol for Dulles Int'l 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, so it's unclear why BOI was chosen instead of IDA.
IUD Doha Washington (Dulles) An "IUD" is an "IntraUterine Device," or form of birth control. Doha is the capital of Qatar in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
JFC not assigned Jefferson City "JFC" is an acronym 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.
KUL Kuala Lumpur Kingdom of Loathing Kingdom of Loathing is an online, browser-based RPG. It contains an International Airport, previously lacking a three digit code.
LAX Los Angeles 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."
LOL Lovelock Louisville "LOL" often stands for "Laughing Out Loud".
MDW Chicago, IL (Midway) Midway Atoll Midway Atoll was the site of one of the most significant World War II Pacific naval battles. Its actual IATA code is MDY.
MIA Miami Colombo, Sri Lanka MIA is a rapper who is of Sri Lankan heritage. It also frequently stands for "Missing In Action".
OMW not assigned Omaha Eppley Airfield in East Omaha, Nebraska, has an IATA code of OMA. "OMW" is an acronym for "On My Way."
ORD Chicago, IL (O'Hare) Orlando O'Hare was once known as Orchard Place/Douglas Field, hence ORD
PDX Portland 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, PA 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.
SAN San Diego San Diego
San Juan
San Jose
San Francisco
San Antonio
San Diego International Airport 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 Jose. Their airport codes: Puerto Rico: SJU and SIG. Argentina: UAQ. California, USA: SJC. Costa Rica: SJO. Mexico: SJD. Philippines: SJI
SEA Seattle/Tacoma or SeaTac [Indicates Water Landing] This is possibly a reference to the fact that "SEA" could be interpreted as "Sea". Like some other major airports (e.g., San Francisco International Airport and LaGuardia Airport), SEA is very close to a large body of water, in SeaTac's case Puget Sound: thus, missing the airport may end up in a water landing. SeaTac is also a city in WA, adjacent to the airport.
SMH Sapmanga Smithfield "SMH" often stands for "Shaking My Head".
STL St. Louis Silent Hill Silent Hill is a fictional city appearing in the series of video games and movies with the same name.
SWF Newburgh, New York Sherwood Forest .swf is the file extension for ShockWave Flash files. "SWF" can also stand for "Single White Female" in personal ads. Sherwood Forest, mentioned in the comic, is known as the forest where Robin Hood's hideout was located. According to the legend among his band of Merry Men there was a single white female, the Maid Marian.
TBA Tabibuga Tribeca "TBA" often stands for "To Be Announced". Tribeca (original styled TriBeCa) is an area in New York City. Angie Tribeca is an American comedy television series.
TMI Tumlingtar Turkmenistan International "TMI" often stands for "Too Much Information".
YYY Mont-Joli Toronto Downtown The small airport in downtown Toronto is Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which has an IATA code of YTZ.
YYZ Toronto 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)

The title text is a pun about the abbreviation IATA stating it stands for International AirporT Abbreviation. This is wrong as everything else here because the real International Air Transport Association is not an organization only responsible for abbreviations in aviation.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[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 some social media conversation is shown:]
I'm flying into EWR tonight, then DTW tomorrow.
[Answer (in blue):]
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)