I mentioned OGG as the three-letter airport code for Kahului Airport on the Hawaiian island of Maui in the Middling article for no greater significance than I found it amusing and it sounded like something a caveman might say. A little Intertubes sleuthing led me to an easy explanation at Airport ABCs, an article reprinted from the December 1994 edition of Air Line Pilot. Why OGG? The designation was created "in honor of aviation legend, and Lihue native, Capt. Bertram J. Hogg (pronounced Hoag)."
The International Air Transport Association a trade group of "240 members comprise 84% of the total air traffic" and known more commonly by its acronym IATA, assigned these codes. Most visible to the average airline traveler, those are the sometimes cryptic three-letter combinations one sees printed on baggage tags that route them to their proper destinations. Usually. Unique codes identify hundreds of distinct airports everywhere around the world, large and small, served by commercial airlines.
Codes ranged from AAA (Anaa Airport, French Polynesia) to ZZV (Zanesville Airport, Ohio, USA), and offered a dizzying array of entertaining combinations. It would border on negligence if I failed to mention the best of the lot even though it’s already well known. I just couldn’t help myself. You knew what was coming — Sioux Gateway Airport serving Sioux City, Iowa.
This Airport SUX
The SUX designation had been applied in an earlier time before "sucks" became so closely synonymous with lousy situations and things. Sioux City politicians began lobbying for a new code in the 1990’s. They abandoned their effort a few years later and decided to stick with SUX after being offered nothing better. They later came to embrace SUX as a marketing tool. Now the airport website proudly proclaims flysux.com and sells merchandise.
Twelve Mile Circle reviewed every three-letter code to gather the best of the rest. I got about halfway through my task and discovered I’d collected primarily a list of obscenities. Being a family-friendly site, or at least a family-tolerant site, I felt an obligation to start anew and shift my focus away from the profane and tack back towards odd. Sorry Fukuoka Airport and your ilk, I discarded you. Actually a couple of codes were even more explicit — enough to make 12MC blush — and I won’t even hint at those.
I gathered some of the vast array of remaining options and placed them in a few logical groupings. Readers can play this game at home with other groupings. Options are practically endless.
D’OH!: Doha, Qatar
Several codes might be completely harmless in their home languages while failing to instill a level of confidence through a prism of English language and popular culture. To wit, Doha, Qatar’s DOH came perilously close to Homer Simpson’s D’OH!
Other difficult transits might be inferred by,
- BAD – Barksdale Air Force Base, Bossier City, Louisiana, United States
- BOO – Bodø Airport, Bodø, Norway
- EEK – Eek Airport, Eek, Alaska, United States
- LIE – Libenge Airport, Libenge, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- MUD – Mueda Airport, Mueda, Mozambique
- SAD – Safford Regional Airport, Safford, Arizona, United States
- WAA – Wales Airport (FAA: IWK), Wales, Alaska, United States
FLY to Finley, NSW, Australia
Other airports seemed to imply vastly superior experiences. I don’t know how tiny Finley, NSW, Australia managed to snag FLY, though. I would have thought airports around the world would have fought hard for that one. Any city in Florida or Finland might have also put that code to good use.
A few other attractive options,
- ACE – Lanzarote Airport, Arrecife, Canary Islands, Spain
- EZE – Ministro Pistarini International Airport Ezeiza, Argentina
- SKY – Griffing Sandusky Airport, Sandusky, Ohio, United States
- TLC – Lic. Adolfo López Mateos International Airport, Toluca, Estado de México, México
- WOW – Willow Airport, Willow, Alaska, United States
Have a COW; Coquimbo, Chile
I needed to come up with something innocuous and family-appropriate after my earlier thematic failure. An "Old MacDonald" farmyard motif arose from the lengthy list, although admittedly UDR for udder might have been stretching things a bit too far (no pun intended).
- ARF – Acaricuara Airport, Acaricuara, Colombia
- BAA – Bialla Airport, Bialla, Papua New Guinea
- CAT – New Bight Airport, Cat Island, Bahamas
- COW – Coquimbo Airport, Coquimbo, Coquimbo Region, Chile
- DOG – Dongola Airport, Dongola, Sudan
- MOO – Moomba Airport, Moomba, South Australia, Australia
- PIG – Pitinga Airport, Pitinga, Brazil
- RAT – Raduzhny Airport, Raduzhny, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Russia
- UDR – Udaipur Airport, Udaipur, India
Airport in Timbuktu by James Joel on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license
Then I got selfish. Which airports, I wondered, had three-letter codes that mattered to me personally. Obviously TOM would rank high on that list, although Timbuktu, Mali might not be the best place to visit at the moment due to civil unrest and rebellion. The code TOM derived from it French language spelling, Aéroport International de Tombouctou, a remnant of French colonial rule that lasted into the 1960’s.
TOM in Timbuktu, Mali
In recognition of my given name, my immense EGO, my fondness for food and fermented beverage, and my geo-oddity proclivities, I selected,
- EGO – Belgorod Airport, Belgorod, Russia
- TOM – Timbuktu Airport, Timbuktu, Mali
- BBQ – Codrington Airport, Codrington, Barbuda, Antigua and Barbuda
- HAM – Hamburg Airport, Hamburg / Fuhlsbüttel, Germany
- PIE – St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, Pinellas Co., Florida, United States
- ALE – Alpine-Casparis Municipal Airport, Alpine, Texas, United States
- IPA – Ipota Airport, Ipota, Erromango, Vanuatu
- RUM – Rumjatar Airport, Rumjatar, Nepal
- GEO – Cheddi Jagan International Airport (Timehri Int’l), Georgetown, Guyana
- LOL – Derby Field, Lovelock, Nevada, United States
- USA – Concord Regional Airport, Concord, North Carolina, United States
That would be an interesting world tour.