Know Your Airport Codes

Frequent travelers may already be familiar with the three-letter codes which are used as airport designators.  Knowing these codes make it quicker to search for flights and fares online, and make it easier for you to double-check that your checked bags are going to the same place that you are.

Some of the airport codes are obvious, others are not. But not paying attention to the airport code can mean you’re traveling to Long Beach, California (LGB) instead of New York LaGuardia (LGA). Before beginning any travel planning, make sure you know that accurate airport code for your departure and arrival city.

Learn Your Airport Code

Three little letters determine whether you arrive where you’re supposed to, or if you go astray.  Those three little letters comprise what is known as an airport designator code.

Your ticket will use these letters, and it is important to know the airport code for your city of arrival, as well as all places where you are making a connection.

Some codes are obvious:
SEA is Seattle (Washington)
LAX is Los Angeles (California)
MIA is Miami (Florida)
AMS is Amsterdam (Netherlands)

Some are not so obvious:
GEG is Spokane (Washington)
MSY is New Orleans (Louisiana)
ORD is Chicago O’Hare (Illinois)
YYJ is Victoria, B.C. (Canada)

And some are so very close that one letter could mean you and your bags wind up in a different part of the world:
LGB is Long Beach (California)
LGA is New York LaGuardia (New York)
LGW is London Gatwick (U.K.)
LGZ is Leguizamo (Columbia)

A good reference site is World Airport Codes, which allows you to search by country name or abbreviation, city name, airport name, or airport code.  With that kind of search capacity, you should never be at a loss for the correct city code.

Remember, you’re bags should be tagged with the same airport codes as your ticket.  Double-check to make sure that they match up, or you and your bags will head off in different directions.

Top 30 US Airport Codes

Rank Airports (Large hubs) IATA
Major city served State
1 Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport ATL Atlanta GA
2 Los Angeles International Airport LAX Los Angeles CA
3 O’Hare International Airport ORD Chicago IL
4 Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport DFW Dallas TX
5 Denver International Airport DEN Denver CO
6 John F. Kennedy International Airport JFK New York NY
7 San Francisco International Airport SFO San Francisco CA
8 Seattle–Tacoma International Airport SEA Seattle WA
9 McCarran International Airport LAS Las Vegas NV
10 Orlando International Airport MCO Orlando FL
11 Newark Liberty International Airport EWR Newark/New York NJ
12 Charlotte Douglas International Airport CLT Charlotte NC
13 Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport PHX Phoenix AZ
14 George Bush Intercontinental Airport IAH Houston TX
15 Miami International Airport MIA Miami FL
16 General Edward Lawrence Logan International Airport BOS Boston MA
17 Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport MSP Minneapolis/St. Paul MN
18 Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport FLL Fort Lauderdale FL
19 Detroit Metropolitan Airport DTW Detroit MI
20 Philadelphia International Airport PHL Philadelphia PA
21 LaGuardia Airport LGA New York NY
22 Baltimore–Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport BWI Baltimore/Washington, D.C. MD
23 Salt Lake City International Airport SLC Salt Lake City UT
24 San Diego International Airport SAN San Diego CA
25 Washington Dulles International Airport IAD Washington, D.C. VA
26 Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport DCA Washington, D.C. VA
27 Chicago Midway International Airport MDW Chicago IL
28 Tampa International Airport TPA Tampa FL
29 Portland International Airport PDX Portland OR
30 Daniel K. Inouye International Airport HNL Honolulu HI

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