IATA location identifier, or IATA station code is a three-letter code representing airports and metropolitan areas globally,established by the International Air Transport association (IATA)
The assignment of these codes is governed by IATA Resolution 763, and it is administered by the IATA’s headquarters in Montreal. The codes are published semi-annually in the IATA Airline Coding Directory.
At the very beginning, airport codes were used by the NWS (National Weather Services) in the United States where only two letter codes were used to express a specific airport location.
Gradually, the two characters codes became unmanageable for the cities and towns that weren’t within the NWS region, and that is why the three letters airport codes started to be implemented.
The three letters IATA codes can be set in different ways:
- For some airport codes, the first three letters of the city are taken. For instance, CAI stands for Cairo’s airport, IST stands for Istanbul, FRA stands for Frankfurt, and so on.
- Other airport codes are set by the combination of some letters of the airport city. For example, KLA stands for Kampala’s airport, NBO stands for Nairobi’s airport, JNB stands for Johannesburg, and so on.
- Some other airport codes still have their NWS two letters codes with the letter X as the third character. For instance, LAX stands for Los Angeles airport, PHX stands for Phoenix airport, PDX stands for Portland’s airport, and so on.
- Some airport codes represent the pronunciation rather than the spelling. For example, NAN which stands for Nadi.
- Some other codes don’t match any of the properties mentioned above. The codes are simply derived from some letters existing in the airport or city’s name. For example, DWT stands for Detroit Wayne County airport, LBA stands for Leeds Bradford Airport, MSP stands for Minneapolis Saint Paul, and so on.
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