Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

hidden europe 55

by hidden europe

Frequent flyers know that it's perfectly reasonable to fly from JFK to WAW via AMS. Just as they appreciate that it makes no sense at all to fly ARN to HEL via CDG. Those innocuous codes on airline baggage tags are the key to the geography of air travel and some have a dash of history too.

article summary —

No airline has ever offered direct flights on the route from AAL to ZYR. Those three-letter International Air Transport Association (IATA) codes used on airline baggage tags can be enigmatic, evocative or just puzzling. Some are easy to decode. It’s no surprise that AAL is the Danish town of Aalborg, where this summer’s destination list includes AMS, OSL and STN — all easily guessed as the code derives directly from the city or airport name, viz. Amsterdam, Oslo and Stansted. Some airline codes make perfect matches. LTQ could only ever be Le Touquet, just as nothing could fit Nice more nicely than NCE.

But what of the airport code ZYR? Well, that’s not an airport at all; it is a railway station in Belgium. The Dutch airline KLM will gladly book you a ticket from ZYR to Berlin or Bujumbura — or, indeed, to dozens of other cities across the world, provided you don’t mind taking a train for the first part of your journey. The code ZYR is assigned to Brussels Midi station, from where passengers booked though KLM can travel on a direct Thalys train to Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam to join their flight.

So some IATA airport codes refer to places far from any airport. QYG ranks as one of the quirkiest ‘non-airport’ codes.

This is just an excerpt. The full text of this article is not yet available to members with online access to hidden europe. Of course you can also read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 55.

About the authors

hidden europe

and manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 55.