Airport Name or Code: Which to use?

In 1957, the Okaloosa County Air Terminal opened on Eglin Air Force Base.  Passengers would drive through Valparaiso, Florida and enter the base through the East Gate. With the location came the airport code VPS. In March of 1975 the Okaloosa County Air Terminal’s name was changed to Okaloosa Regional Airport. Then, in 2008 to Northwest Florida Regional Airport but the code always remained the same, VPS.

There are two, internationally recognized systems of airport code designation; IATA and ICAO. The IATA code is a three-letter code, most commonly recognized by the public because of its widespread use in reservations, ticketing and baggage handling. Another, less commonly known code system is the ICAO. These four-letter codes are used by air-traffic control systems to refer to airports without an IATA code, most commonly those not running commercial flights. The codes provide unique identifiers for each airport, removing confusion.

Airport names, however, are not nearly as unique. For instance, we are the Northwest Florida Regional Airport. To the east of us, in Panama City, is the recently opened Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP). It’s important to note here, airports can be named anything deemed appealing. As a result, we have at least two airports within an hour and a half’s drive with “International” in their names; but no international flights. So, clearly, the name of an airport isn’t the best or most accurate designation.

Apart from airports located within a short distance from one another with similar names, many larger cities have more than one airport. Often, these airports aren’t even technically within the limits of the city for which they’re named. Say you’re flying into Los Angeles, California. The most recognizable Los Angeles airport is the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), but there are myriad other airports offering international, domestic, military, towered and untowered aviation options to the Los Angeles area.

For these reasons, and to add a bit of sanity to the system, we think it’s best to refer to airports by their IATA code.
We are VPS, and we encourage you to keep it simple: Click. Pack. FlyVPS.
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