IATA and ICAO codes for Airport, concepts and differences

With more than 40,000 existing airports in the world, an identification system is necessary that serves to unequivocally name each airport , differentiating it from the rest. For this, the IATA codes and the ICAO aerodrome identification codes are used, which, despite designating the same airport, are not related to each other and have some differences:

IATA codes and ICAO codes designate Airports

They are not related to each other and have some differences.
The IATA code is perhaps the most well-known airport code and the most used by the passenger on foot, since it is the one that appears on plane tickets, boarding passes, baggage tags or information screens at airports, and are decided by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The IATA codes consist of a three-letter code that is usually related to the city or region that the airport serves, or the name of the aerodrome that existed before the creation of the airport, but that does not have to contain geographic information of the airport. same. Examples are the airport codes for Malaga (AGP), Charles de Gaulle in Paris (CDG) or London’s main airport, Heathrow (LHR).

By containing only three letters, the possible combinations are limited and consequently the IATA codes are not unique in some cases, and the same code can designate two different airports. As a result of this uniqueness in the designation required by the aeronautical system, there are ICAO codes.

The ICAO codes are designated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and are used by the most “aeronautical” professionals in the air transport sector (controllers, pilots…), so in general they are less known by the passenger from a foot.

They consist of a four-letter code and their use by more specialized personnel is due to their uniqueness (there are no codes that designate more than one airport) since they contain geographic information about the aerodrome due to its structure. Let’s see how it is:

The first letter of the ICAO code of an airport designates the geographical area according to ICAO where it is located.

The second letter of the ICAO code indicates the country where it is located, within the geographical area indicated by the first letter.

The third and fourth letters of the code already serve to identify the specific airport.

As in everything, there are slight exceptions, since Canada, the United States and Australia are considered ICAO zones in themselves due to their extensive dimensions, so the last three letters of the code already serve to define the aerodrome.

If we take the same ones we alluded to above as examples, in the case of Malaga airport the code is LEMG, in the case of Paris Charles de Gaulle it is LFPG, while London-Heathrow is EGLL.

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