How Many International Airport Codes Do You Know?

WORLD

By: Jonnathan Chadwick

6 Min Quiz

Image: Issarawat Tattong / Moment / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Before the International Air Transport Association established airport codes, pilots used the two-letter abbreviation of whatever city they needed to communicate with. The two-letter codes were established by the National Weather Service. The system quickly became unsustainable for airplane pilots, and a three-letter system was created.

In the beginning, it was simple. The IATA airport code was the first three letters of whatever city the airport was located in. Some cities made the full switch, but some cities kept the original two-letter codes and just added "X" as the third letter. To make things confusing, some cities weren't represented by the first three letters of their names, but by a random three letters in the name instead. For example, Warsaw's international airport is WAW instead of WAR. 

To make things more confusing, some cities have multiple airports. Places like New York City and London have so many airports that no single one can claim NYC or LON as an airport code. This led to airport codes based on the actual name of the airport, like Chicago's O'Hare Airport. But if that wasn't confusing enough, some airports, like O'Hare, undergo name changes and the airport code is never updated. And on top of that, some cities, like Bombay and Peking, simply change their names. Needless to say, some IATA airport codes can't be figured out with logic and reason. They can only be memorized. How many international airport codes do you know?

It takes less than six hours to fly from JFK to Los Angeles International Airport. Do you know LA's airport code?

Up until 1930, airport codes only required two letters. When requirements changed to three letters, many airports simply added X to the code. Today, LAX is one of the most widely known airport codes in the country, and it's America's second busiest airport in terms of all passenger traffic.

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SEA is the busiest airport in America's Pacific Northwest. Can you name the airport?

Seattle International is also known as Sea-Tac and the airport was built when three-letter airport codes were required so this one is pretty straightforward. It simply stands for Seattle and it's the largest in America's Pacific Northwest. It's the eighth busiest in America in terms of all passenger traffic.

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DEN is the largest airport in all of North America. What's the airport?

Denver International is sometimes referred to as DIA, but its airport code is DEN. It encompasses more than 33,500 acres of land, and Saudi Arabia's King Fahd International is the only airport in the world that is larger.

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New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the country. What's the airport code?

JFK is New York City's premier airport, but it's not the busiest airport in the country. America's busiest airport in terms of all passenger traffic has been in Georgia since at least the turn of the century. JFK is the country's busiest in terms of international passenger traffic only.

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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has been the busiest airport in the world since 2000. What's the airport code?

There are several ways to measure an airport's traffic, and Hartsfield-Jackson tops the list in many categories. It's the busiest airport in terms of all passenger traffic, number of aircraft movements and number of flights. It's the seventh busiest in the country in terms of international passenger traffic only.

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MOM and DAD are both airport codes. What airport uses the code DAD?

DAD is the airport code for Da Nang International in Da Nang Vietnam. It's one of the country's most important and more than 11 million passengers travel through each year. MOM is the code for Letfotar Airport in Mauritania.

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The Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is the busiest airport in the DMV area. What's its code?

Washington, D.C. is home to Reagan National Airport and Dulles International, but BWI is slightly the busiest in the area. Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American Supreme Court Justice and the airport was named after him in 2005.

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Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas is bigger than Manhattan. Do you know the airport code?

Dallas/Fort Worth International sits on more than 12,000 acres of land about halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth. In terms of takeoffs and landings, it is the fourth-busiest airport in the world. Only LAX, ORD and ATL are busier.

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Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was the first major airport to be developed after WWII. Do you know its code?

Before O'Hare International was called O'Hare International, it was called Orchard Place, which is where the ORD code comes from. The site was used to build military planes for WWII. After the war, a commercial airport was developed and named after Edward O'Hare, the Navy's first Flying Ace and Medal of Honor recipient.

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SIN is home to the world's highest indoor waterfall. Can you name the airport?

Singapore's Changi Airport opened in 1981 and is one of the world's busiest airports today. It's been ranked as the best airport in the world for several years. In 2019, a seven-story waterfall called the "Rain Vortex" was installed and is currently the world's highest indoor waterfall.

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FAT is the main airport for Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks. Can you name the airport?

Fresno Yosemite International Airport is located in Fresno, CA and its airport code is FAT because it used to be called Fresno Air Terminal. The airport is also used for military purposes and was originally built as a military airfield.

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MAD is the largest and busiest airport in Spain. What's the airport?

Madrid-Barajas is officially called the Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport and it's the second largest airport in Europe in terms of physical size. It's the busiest airport in Spain and one of the main connections between Latin America and Europe.

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The airport code for Toronto Pearson International Airport is one of the most confusing. What is it?

All airport codes in Canada must start with the letter Y, so that's how we get the first Y in this code. Pearson is located in Malton, Ontario, and the Morse Code for the Malton train station was YZ, so that's where we get the YZ from.

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Charles de Gaulle Airport is the largest airport in Europe in terms of size. Do you know the code?

Paris Charles de Gaulle is also known as Roissy Airport because of its location, but it's named after WWII French Resistance leader Charles de Gaulle. In terms of all passenger traffic, it's the second-busiest in Europe behind London Heathrow.

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Almost everyone who visits Sin City flies into McCarran International Airport. What's the airport code?

McCarran International is just a few minutes away from downtown Vegas and is named after former U.S. Senator Pat McCarran. The airport is the main airport in the area and visitors are greeted with slot machines once they get off the plane.

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MLB players frequently travel to Florida for spring training. What airport uses MLB as its code?

The airport that uses NBA as a code is closed but sits in Papua New Guinea. NFL airport is a training field for the U.S. Navy and is located in Las Vegas. It's called Naval Air Station Fallon. MLB airport is about an hour south of Orlando. There is no NHL airport.

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Hong Kong is home to more skyscrapers than any city on Earth. What's the code for Hong Kong International Airport?

Hong Kong International Airport is the world's busiest in terms of cargo traffic and the eighth busiest in terms of all passenger traffic. The airport is also known as Chek Lap Kok since it's located on Chek Lap Kok island.

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Orlando International Airport is Florida's largest. Do you know its code?

Orlando International was once called McCoy Air Force and that's where it got its airport code. The Orlando area is home to many airports, including Daytona Beach International Airport (DAB) and Tampa International Airport (TPA).

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London Heathrow is the busiest airport in all of Europe. What's its code?

London is one of the busiest cities in the world and is home to two of the busiest airports in the world in terms of international passenger traffic. Heathrow is the second-busiest in the world and London Gatwick is the 13th-busiest in the world in terms of international passenger traffic.

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Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino is Italy's premier international airport. What's the code?

Italy's main international airport is named after one of Italy's most famous people, but the code comes from the town it sits in: Fiumicino. Several airports in Europe service more passengers, but more than 40 million people fly through FCO each year.

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Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is Europe's busiest in terms of takeoffs and landings. Do you know the code?

Schiphol Airport sees more than half a million aircraft movements each year, which is more than London Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle. It's Europe's third busiest airport in terms of all passenger traffic. Only LHR and CDG are busier.

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JFK might be NYC's busiest airport, but Newark Liberty International is considered the country's first major commercial airport. What's its airport code?

Newark Liberty International Airport is in New Jersey but is one of the main airports to serve the NYC area. It handles more flights than JFk although it's less than half the size. The airport opened in 1928. It wasn't the first in the country, but is considered the first major commercial airport.

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PEE in Russia was built for a Soviet WWII hero. Can you name the airport?

Russia is the largest country in the world and is home to more than 200 airports. Perm International isn't at the top of the list when it comes to the country's largest or busiest, but it does offer international flights.

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Beijing Capital International Airport is home to the busiest airport outside the United States. What's the airport code?

Beijing Capital is Beijing's primary airport and it's Asia's busiest airport in terms of all passenger traffic. It was opened in 1958 when Beijing was still called Peking, and that's where it gets its airport code from.

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If you know India's capital, you might know the airport code for Indira Gandhi International Airport. What is it?

New Delhi is the capital of India and Delhi is the capital of New Delhi. More than 11 million people call the city home. The airport is named after the former prime minister. It's the country's busiest in terms of passenger and cargo traffic.

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BOM isn't the most ideal airport code but it's an airport code. What airport uses it?

This airport in India used to be known as Sahar International Airport and it's the main international airport for the Mumbai area. It was built when Mumbai was still called Bombay, and that's where the code comes from.

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Moscow is served by four international airports. What's the code for Sheremetyevo International Airport?

Sheremetyevo International became Sheremetyevo Alexander S. Pushkin International Airport in 2019. It's the busiest airport in the biggest country in the world. Russia is home to more than 220 airports. More than 40 million travel through SVO each year.

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Incheon International Airport in Seoul has a golf course, casino, skating rink, museum and more. What's its airport code?

Incheon International opened in 2001 and quickly became one of the world's best. It ranks as one of the fastest airports in the world since passengers spend just 12 minutes during arrivals and 19 minutes during departures on average. It also ranks as the world's cleanest.

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DOH is Homer Simpson's catch phrase, but what airport uses that code?

Hamad International is the only international airport in Qatar and was opened in 2014. It's one of the top 10 largest airports in the world by size and it actually sits on man-made land. More than 50,000 people helped build the airport.

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BOO might be the scariest airport code in the world. What's the airport?

Bodø Airport only has one runway and mostly serves domestic flights, but it does offer some international flights. Flights go to many places in Europe and all over Norway. It is one of the scarier airport codes in the world.

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Dubai International Airport is the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic. What's its airport code?

Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta is the busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic, but a lot of that is domestic traffic. It doesn't even crack the world's top 20 in terms of international passenger traffic only. Terminal 3 at DXB is recognized as the largest airport terminal in the world.

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Tokyo is home to two gigantic airports. What's the code for Tokyo International Airport?

Tokyo International is also known as Haneda Airport. Tokyo is recognized as the most populous metro area in the world and the city's airport system consists of four airports. It's the third busiest airport system in the world. London (six airports) and New York City (six airports) are the two busiest airport systems in the world.

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RUN airport is a French airport nowhere near France. What's the airport?

France is still in control of 16 colonies around the world, and Réunion in the Indian Ocean is one of them. That's where you'll find Roland Garros Airport. The airport used to be known as Gillot Airport and it makes international flights to places like Bangkok and Johannesburg.

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Newark Liberty International might be considered the country's oldest commercial airport, but College Park Airport is the oldest in the world. What's the code?

Maryland's College Park Airport opened in 1909 when Wilbur Wright was contracted to train military pilots to fly the first government airplane. The airport is still in operation today, making it the world's longest-running airport.

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DIE is probably the worst airport code in the world. What's the airport?

Nobody wants to see their arrival destination labeled DIE. Arrachart Airport is located in Madagascar and it's a rather small airport with just a couple operating airlines. It's not the country's main international airport, but it does technically make international flights to nearby French territories.

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