In all likelihood, you’ve heard of them before, but you may not know where they come from: airport codes. They are a key part of our air travel infrastructure, but who decides which airport gets which code, and what are they used for?
Here at Valley International Airport (code HRL), we want to take some time to explain airport codes and what you need to know about them.
The History of Airport Codes
The first commercial passenger flight in the U.S. took off on New Year’s Day of 1914 in St. Petersburg. Just over fifteen years later, airports and air travel would become so common that a code system to quickly identify different airports all around the world was introduced.
The first airport code was introduced in the 1930s and was only two letters long. By the 1940s, there were enough airports active that the codes were lengthened to three letters.
Types of Airport Codes
There are actually two different types of airport codes. The first is the kind that you’re probably already familiar with. These codes, regulated by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), are three letters long and are used by customers and airlines alike.
The second type of airport code is regulated by a branch of the United Nations, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). These codes are four letters long and are usually used by pilots, air traffic controllers, and airlines.
How Are Airport Codes Decided?
Initially, airport codes were simply chosen by the airports themselves. For instance, Los Angeles Airport originally used the two-letter code “LA.” Later, the code was changed to “LAX” to help differentiate it from other airports in the area. Now, codes are assigned by the IATA using a standardized system.
The first thing IATA considers when choosing a code is making sure the code isn’t already in use by another airport. To decide on a code, the IATA looks at the airport name, the city name, or other relevant identifiers.
How To Find an Airport’s Code
Valley International Airport’s IATA code is HRL; when you book your flight from the Valley, you can expect to see HRL on your ticket. However, what about your destination airport? To find the code for any airport, you can usually use a simple internet search. You can search for the airport code or for the IATA code; either search should get you the results you’re looking for.
Catch Non-Stop Flights From HRL: Your Valley International Airport
Here at HRL, we believe air travel should be a convenient, affordable option for any traveler — and we work hard to keep it that way!
No matter where you’re flying to, you can find a flight out of HRL to get you there. We have non-stop flights to a variety of locations, and one-stop flights to countless more destinations.