The secret behind ICAO Airport Codes

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) striving for a sustainable growth of the global civil aviation since 1944.

Did you ever see some 4-letter codes and wondered what these figures could mean? Even though not all of the codes are easily decipherable, it definitely gives you a direction. Now, let’s have a closer look at the complex ICAO codes and find out what they stand for.

The first letter of the ICAO code always stands for the region or area. If we now focus on Europe, it is splitted in two areas, northern and southern europe, which is indeed rough. While northern europe has the first letter „E“, southern europe carries the letter „L“. Very large countries like India, China or Russia do have their very own ICAO letter.

The second letter stands for the country of the specified area. Since larger countries have their very own first letter, the second letter identifies a region within that country.

The last two letters do not make sense in all cases, but at least we now know which region and country we are talking about. With these information, it is much easier to decipher the ICAO codes.

Instagram: berkincabuk – 777 landing at LSZH

Some examples we split together:

E for Northern Europe, G for Great Britain, L for London and C for City. So, we are talking about the London City Airport (EGLC). Switch the last to letters with GW and there you are, Gatwick Airport (EGGW). What about the little spot in Central Europe? L for Southern Europe, S for Switzerland and ZH for Zurich.

As mentioned, it is not always that easy. At least it gives you a direction which region is meant. Germany is using the ICAO code starting with ED… and not EG… Confusing at first, but if you think about that Germany in German is „Deutschland“, ED… makes sense immediately.

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