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by B G June 30, 2018

Have you ever noticed the two letters or numbers in front your flight number such as BA for British Airways or DL for Delta? These two characters represent a specific airline. IATA Airline Codes are two letter characters assigned by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to represent airlines around the world.

The International Air Transport Association is a trade association of the airlines in the world. There are a total of 278 airlines within IATA and it is headquartered in Montreal, Canada. IATA provides training services and consulting since they are quite crucial to aviation. For example, IATA largely standardizes HAZMAT in terms of dangerous goods that can and cannot be let on an aircraft. Flammable items, oxidizing, biohazard items, and toxic items are not allowed on aircrafts. IATA was originally formed in Havana, Cuba during 1945. Safety and Security are known to be the top priorities of IATA in the present day. IATA codes are based on the 1947 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) identification codes. In 1982 codes consisting of letters and a digit were initiated as the present day three-letter code. Using three figures helped distinguish each airline as the airline industry continued to grow in the 1980’s.



There are certain combinations of letters such as “SOS” that are never used since they would add confusion to other important codes. Codes that begin with Y or Z are reserved for government organizations and a YYY code is used for operators that do not even have a code assigned.

Pan American Airways began in 1927 as the largest international air carrier from the United States. Being known as the founding member of the IATA prides Pan Am. The IATA code used was PA and the ICAO code used for PAA.



American Airlines, for example, began with the AA code as assigned by the ICAO in the late 1940’s. When IATA developed, it took over the AA code but in the mid 1980’s, ICAO took on the three-letter code AAL.



Southwest is represented by the WN code. Oddly, Air Namibia took on the SW code during a time when it used to be called South West Air Transport. Since the 1980’s, Southwest has attempted to negotiate a form of payment in order to take on the SW code; however, both airlines have never come to an agreement.



Lufthansa is Germany’s largest airline operating flights to 197 international destinations. The IATA code is LH and the ICAO code is DLH. Air Berlin is the second largest airline in Germany. Air Berlin has the AB IATA code and the BER ICAO code. 



While many of these airline codes are quite common, there are a few interesting airline codes as assigned by the ICAO. Many of these airlines have gone out of business but a few of these airlines with funny codes are still flying. The code WTF represented West African Air Transport and is still going strong. BOO stands for UK based Bookajet Limited. Finally, Fly Europa Limited’s airline code is FEE, which sounds a bit pricey!


We have a vast selection of airport and airline codes available in many products! Check it out!  



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