A Fun History of Airport Codes - United Hub

A fun history of airport codes

By Benét J. Wilson

Have you ever looked at your baggage tag, seen the three-letter airport code and wondered what it meant? Some, like SFO — San Francisco International Airport — make perfect sense, while others, like PIE — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport — are less intuitive. Airport codes can seem unusual at times, but they all have a meaning and in most cases a good story to tell. The International Air Transport Association, which advocates on behalf of the world's airlines, oversees and creates these airport codes. Below you'll find a list of 10 airports with unusual codes and an explanation of how they were created.

Chicago O'Hare International Airport: ORD

Chicago O'Hare, our home base, was originally known as Orchard Field Airport. It was renamed in 1949 to honor local Medal of Honor recipient Edward O'Hare, the Navy's first flying ace during World War II. OR comes from the first two letters of Orchard, and D comes from the last letter in Field, making up the airport code ORD.

Beijing Capital International Airport: PEK

Beijing's airport code comes from the first three letters of Peking, the original English translation of the name of China's capital city. United began flying to Beijing in 1986, with service now available from Chicago, New York/Newark, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

Orlando International Airport: MCO

The gateway airport to Central Florida was originally home to the McCoy Air Force Base, named after Colonel Michael Norman Wright McCoy, who was killed in a jet crash in 1957. After the base closed in 1975, it became Orlando's main airport. The M, C and O come from the name McCoy.

Louis Armstrong International Airport, New Orleans: MSY

The New Orleans airport was originally named Moisant Field after John Bevins Moisant, an aviation pioneer. The airport is located on what was previously known as Moisant Stock Yards, hence the MSY airport code. It was renamed Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in 2001 to honor the jazz musician's 100th birthday.

Guam International Airport: GUM

This United hub was originally built by the Japanese as a military base in 1943. Its name comes from three of the four letters of the country's name.

Sioux Gateway Airport, Iowa: SUX

Before embracing its airport code, Sioux City tried several times to get what it saw as an offensive designator changed. But after seeing alternatives, it decided to embrace the code and turn it into a marketing tool. The Sioux City Airport now sells merchandise using the "Fly SUX" brand.

Singapore Changi Airport: SIN

There's nothing sinister about this airport's code, derived from the first three letters of the island city-state's name. It has been named the world's best airport for the past four years by the Skytrax ratings.

Fresno Yosemite International Airport: FAT

This airport's code has nothing to do with its size. The gateway to California's iconic national park got its airport code from its original name: Fresno Air Terminal. When the airport took on its current name in 1996, it applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for a new code, but it was turned down. The FAA only gives out new codes when an airport moves from one location to another.

Madrid–Barajas Airport: MAD

The code for the Madrid airport is pretty simple. It's the first three letters of Spain's capital and most populous city. The Barajas part of the name comes from the district located near the airport, which is considered a gateway to the rest of Europe and the world.

United Awards Free Flights for a Year to Winners of "Your Shot to Fly" Sweepstakes

Grand prize winners live in Bradenton, FL; Cleveland, OH; Goodyear, AZ; Oakland, CA and San Francisco, CA
By United Newsroom, July 29, 2021

CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- United Airlines today announced the five lucky grand prize winners of its "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes, who will each get to fly anywhere in the world United flies with a companion over the course of the next year. The winners of the "Your Shot to Fly" sweepstakes are:

  • Ashley Cronkhite from Bradenton, FL
  • Robert Simicak from Cleveland, OH
  • Sean Husmoe from Goodyear, AZ
  • Lauren Aldredge from Oakland CA
  • Lauren M. from San Francisco, CA

The sweepstakes was in support of the Biden administration's ongoing national effort to encourage more people to get their COVID-19 vaccination and encouraged United's MileagePlus® loyalty members to upload their vaccine records to United. In less than a month, more than one million MileagePlus members uploaded their vaccine cards to the United app and website for a shot to win one of the grand prizes. In June the airline awarded 30 first prize winners with a pair of roundtrip tickets anywhere United flies.

United First U.S. Airline to Offer Economy Customers Option to Pre-Order Snacks and Beverages

New pre-order option builds on the airline's contactless payment technology and is another example of the customer experience transformation underway at United
By United Newsroom, July 28, 2021

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Starting today on select flights, all United customers – no matter what cabin of service they're flying in – can use the airline's award-winning mobile app and website to pre-order meals, snacks and beverages up to five days before they're scheduled to travel. United is the first and only U.S. airline to offer economy customers the option to pre-order snacks and beverages, a reflection of the customer experience transformation underway at the airline.



United Airlines to Operate More than 40 Weekly Flights as England Re-Opens to U.S. Travelers

In August, United is adding a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. to London
By United Newsroom, July 28, 2021

CHICAGO, July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- With today's announcement of England reopening to fully vaccinated travelers from the U.S. beginning Aug 2, United Airlines is making it easier for business and leisure customers to jet across the pond with the addition of flights to London. In August, United will have six daily flights between the U.S. and London, including a second daily flight from Washington, D.C. and increasing service from Houston to daily. United looks forward to resuming additional London service in the coming months as well as launching new nonstop service between Boston and London. Customers traveling to England must be fully vaccinated in the U.S. with vaccines that have been approved by the FDA and must take a test before departure as well as a PCR test within the first two days of arrival. Passengers vaccinated in the U.S. will also need to complete a passenger locator form prior to traveling to England and provide proof of U.S. residency.

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