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.

Jessica Kimbrough named Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer

By The Hub team, July 10, 2020

Jessica Kimbrough, currently Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, will take on the new role of Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Managing Director.

Jessica assumes this new and expanded position to focus on global inclusion and equity as part of our enhanced commitment to ensure best practices across the business to strengthen our culture.

In this role, Jessica will be responsible for helping United redefine our efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion – ensuring that our programs and approach are strategic, integrated and outcome-oriented, while we continue to build a culture that reflects our core values. She will report to Human Resources and Labor Relations EVP Kate Gebo.

"Jessica's appointment to this role is another critical step our executive team is taking to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion remains a top priority at United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "Given her drive, experience and commitment to champion collaboration and allyship among our employee business resource groups, she is uniquely qualified to take on this position and I look forward to working closely with her."

As Labor Relations and Legal Strategy Managing Director, Jessica worked closely with senior management to create and maintain positive labor relations among our unionized workforce, providing counsel on labor litigation, negotiations, contract administration, organizing issues and managing attorneys who represent United in labor relations. Previously, she served as Labor and Employment Counsel in our legal department.

Jessica has a passion for creating a pipeline of diverse lawyers and leaders, and was honored as one of Chicago Defender's "Women of Excellence" for excellence in her career and civic engagement in 2017. She currently serves as President of uIMPACT, our women's employee business resource group.

Jessica's new role is effective immediately.

United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving

By The Hub team, July 02, 2020

By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.

United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.

Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.

A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.

United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Celebrating Juneteenth

By United Airlines, June 18, 2020

A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group

Fellow United team members –

Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.

Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.

Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."

Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.

To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.

Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.

Thank you,

UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)

Leadership Team

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