I suggest that when discussing specific airports on travel.se, we tag them with the correct IATA airport code:

SFO -- San Francisco International Airport -- San Francisco, California, United States

LHR -- London Heathrow Airport -- London, England, UK

thus, and .

This also means questions like

should be tagged with the appropriate IATA airport code, as these questions are at least partially specific to that airport.

Agree? Disagree?

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    It would be a really polished touch if the SE system could somehow allow these tags to be flagged in a way to always make them uppercase rather than lowercase like normal tags. This will make it much more obvious that they are codes, especially for any which happen to look like three-letter words. Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 10:13
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    Huge fan of this idea. An even nicer touch would be if all three letter tags on this site were capitalized, and it would be super-amazing if we pre-populated a database of popular airport codes somehow instead of depending on the community to put them all in one at a time! Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 2:21
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    In fact it might be super slick to add a tiny Unicode airplane ✈ to the tag for airports. Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 2:23
  • 1
    While you're at this, the same policy should apply for two character airline codes. Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 2:23
  • 1
    You could also give them a different colour like the special (discussion, bug, support) tags on meta get. Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 13:47
  • Meta question about what kind of tags to use for airlines: meta.travel.stackexchange.com/questions/321/…
    – Jonik
    Commented Sep 22, 2011 at 6:18
  • And of course everyone knows that ORK means Cork Airport ....
    – TRiG
    Commented Jan 19, 2013 at 23:12

8 Answers 8


I consider airport codes fairly obscure. Maybe knowing them is common in the US; in my experience (I don't have any statistics) it's rare for Europeans, even well-traveled ones, to know them.

To insist, since I see a movement towards standardizing on airport TLAs as tags: TLAs do not look professional, they look jargony. Expecting most visitors to recognize them at first site and understand them out of context (or even in an air travel context) creates an entry barrier, a sense that there is a clique that they're not part of and not welcome to. In fact, we should have a policy that each post always introduces an airport by its usual name before using its TLA (this is a good policy for all kinds of abbreviations).

I suggest appending the IATA code to the city name, e.g. , . That makes the purpose of the tag reasonably clear from the name: even if you don't know about airport codes, when you see the tag, you immediately have a general idea of what it's about. More importantly (since tag wikis also say what a tag is about), san-francisco-sfo is discoverable; sfo is not. Additionally, it allows people to subscribe to san-francisco* and cover the airport as well.

That's assuming airport tags are warranted in the first place. How small can a place be and still deserve a tag? Should there be tags for major train stations too? Are there people who will subscribe to but not ?

  • Tags don't have to have people subscribe to them for them to be useful. That's just one feature. People were tagging airports already in good relevant questions so the question was about standardizing the airport tags and I think your suggestion may be the best solution for that. Commented Jul 8, 2011 at 11:54
  • Agreed. I generally only know the airport codes for my home airports (and places I've lived in the past). I think tagging airports is good, but include more than just the code in the tag. As an example, on money.SE, they have gbp-british-pound instead of just gbp as the tag.
    – g .
    Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 13:55
  • In my circle of colleagues, everyone knows the airport codes - perhaps this is because in professional services you may fly to SFO one week, LHR the next, and DXB the next, so I do see it as very common in the realm of business travel. That said, I do agree that your idea is more accessible to first time or infrequent flyers.
    – Rory Alsop Mod
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 14:00

I completely agree. There's nothing ambiguous about it; It is a well-defined standard notation for airports. Experts and most laypeople will recognize them… and it adds a bit of a "professional polish" to the site.

Users should edit and correct these tags on sight. If you do not yet have +500 reputation to edit tags, you can use the suggested edit feature to make these changes.

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    Point one: There could be ambiguity when a 3-letter IATA code looks like a 3-letter English word. Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 10:14
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    Point two: For "professional polish" it would be great to capitalize IATA tags. Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 10:15
  • For discovered ambiguities see my new answer... Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 13:48
  • This answer is based on false premises. I dispute the “professional polish” statement — this isn't a professional site, and TLAs look more jargonish. I refute the statement that “most laypeople will recognize them”: maybe in the US, but in my experience this is not the case in Europe. Commented May 22, 2014 at 20:17

Right, we've been using the 3-letter IATA codes for the past 1½ years now, and it works fine for the most part, in my opinion.

I have one additional suggestion though.

Problem is, most newcomers (and even many regulars) never tag their airport questions with the appropriate IATA tag. (Btw: this is understandable because the tag autocomplete usually doesn't suggest it when user starts typing the name of the airport or the city.)

We should start adding useful tag synonyms. Examples:

(If an airport is commonly known by several names, no problem: just create several synonyms.)

I've been personally fixing tags on lots of questions, and see this as an easy way to increase the chance of askers tagging their airport question correctly right away.

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    I think we have some synonyms like those. The problem is many airports can be expressed in a myriad of ways: Sydney airport, Sydney international airport, Kingsford Smith airport, Sir Kingsford Smith airport, Kingsford Smith International airport, etc, etc, etc. For this reason it could be worth only synonymizing tags as they actually appear rather than trying to think up the synonyms in advance. Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 23:21

I think we should distinguish between the airport and the city. On Flyertalk people often use airport codes to mean the city, for example "best seafood restaurant in YVR" would mean in Vancouver, not in the actual airport. I don't like that - for one thing it takes away the ability to distinguish between the airport and the city, and for another I think it excludes people who aren't sure just where YHZ or FCO are, and are put-off by question titles that are a bit opaque. I think as editors and moderators and retaggers we can work as a community to "fix" people saying LAX when they mean Los Angeles and vice versa.

Also we need a quick link for airport code lookups - in both directions.

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    yes, this is scoped only to airport talk specifically, not the city. Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 20:41
  • If you have a long layover in an airport, maybe you want to know the best seafood restaurant in it. Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 11:49
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    @John - no doubt, and you can ask for stores/restaurants in YVR on those rare occasions. That's another advantage of reserving the code for the airport rather than the city - it enables you to ask about the airport when you need to. Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 12:07

I think, this will be useful and will shorten the tag length, but for users who doesn't know about IATA codes we should provide a explanation in tag wiki.

  • 3
    I've put the official names of all existing airport code tags in their tagwiki excerpts. For those that don't include the city or are otherwise obscure I've also included the city and sometimes the country. For some which have changed their official name I have also added that info in the full tag wiki. Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 13:49

There could be an ambiguity problem where some airport codes are the same as three-letter words that might otherwise be used as tags in their normal meaning. We had a similarish problem with ISO language codes on Wiktionary a while back.

  • We could scan the whole list of codes to check for potential problems.
  • We could reserve all three-letter tags as airport codes.
  • We could us a prefix or suffix along with the code: iata-lax, syd-airport

I'm posting this as a separate answer to ensure it gets noticed properly.

We have had our first 3-letter tag created which is not for an airport but is a valid airport code. was created for a place of that name but ELM is the airport code for Elmira/Corning Regional Airport.

Should we just delete or rename such tags as they appear or consider adding a prefix or suffix to the airport code tags, I believe we only have three so far. Also Elm doesn't strike me as a place that will get a lot of questions but they could just be because it's not in the part of the world I've covered.


Actually I was wrong. We already had which is the airport code for Batumi International Airport, the second most important city in the Republic of Georgia. We also already have the tag but that is not used as an airport code. My proposed tag would also fall foul as CAR is the airport code for Caribou Municipal Airport.


Found another one. We use the tag for global positioning system questions but IANA uses it for Seymour Airport which is on Baltra, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.

How hard would it be to allow both upper and lower case tags for this site with the uppercase ones being airport codes and lowercase ones being normal tags?

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    Good point, but in fact IATA codes that can be confused with real words are pretty rare. So maybe we should just enforce the rule on this site that 3-letter tags are always airports, so bus would always mean Batumi and bus-travel could be used for the thing with wheels that go round and round? I can talk Jeff into a special presentation for three letter tags... Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 2:20
  • @Joel: In that case what of the usa tag? Should we make the 3-letter tags "almost always airports" or just find alternatives to all 3-letters tags that are not airports? Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 12:01
  • There are 50 reserved combinations in the IATA system which are never assigned to airports. I'm not sure what they are but if we could figure that out they could be hard-coded exceptions. I'm pretty sure USA is reserved to avoid confusion. Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 14:20
  • Yes I think so too on the USA confusion. I could only think up one other 3-letter country abbreviation: UAE for the United Emirates and that is used for an airport code in an unrelated country: Mount Aue Airport in Papua New Guinea, though it's in some lists and not others. I guess there must be lots of changes. Commented Jul 23, 2011 at 14:49
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    Can't believe I didn't notice before but SEA has been used and it's possible someone could use it as a synonym for ocean. Given our relationship with geeky programming sites I would not be surprised to see SEA in our top ten airport tages over time. Commented Jul 27, 2011 at 12:09

How about we put IATA airport codes into the database as tags, and then make them synonyms for expanded names like LHR -> London?

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    Synonyms with airport names like london-heathrow or london-stanstead yes. Synonyms with city names like london no. Commented Jul 3, 2011 at 10:16
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    London has it's own IATA code to refer to london area airports (LON)
    – zeocrash
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 16:07

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