September 12, 2015

US Airports in Conversation

How do Americans talk about airports? Do they refer to the airport by the airport's actual name, the city the airport is in, the airport code or some other name? 

This post will share a list of the top 10 busiest airports in the US followed by notes on other well-known airports. 

Top 10 busiest airports*


Airports (large hubs)
Code
Major city served
State

Conversation
ATL
Atlanta
GA

Atlanta
LAX
Los Angeles
CA

LAX
ORD
Chicago
IL

O’Hare
DFW
Dallas/Fort Worth
TX

DFW
JFK
NY

JFK
DEN
Denver
CO

DIA
SFO
San Francisco
CA

SFO
CLT
Charlotte
NC

Charlotte
LAS
Las Vegas
NV
McCarran or
Las Vegas
PHX
Phoenix
AZ

PHX

*Listed on Wikipedia as of September 12, 2015

Note the last column titled 'Conversation' in the grid above. The terms in this column are typically used in conversation and small talk when referring to these airports. When an airport is referred to by it's three letter code, normally each letter is pronounced separately. For instance, JFK is pronounced as Jay-eF-Kay.


Jennifer at the Greater Rochester
International Airport (ROC), 2012.
Ironically, on this trip, I traveled via
IAD and ATL. I lost my shoes
in a plane at ATL!
Cultural notes and trivia on other popular airports


  1. Chicago has two airports, O’Hare, noted above and Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), known as Midway in conversation.
  2. The New York City area has three airports, John F. Kennedy International Airport, known as JFK in conversation, LaGuardia known as LaGuardia or LGA, and Newark Liberty International Airport, with the code EWR is simply known as Newark.
  3. Washington DC, known as DC by Americans (saying Washington refers to the state) has two airports, known in conversation as Dulles (DCA) and Reagan National (IAD). Baltimore, located nearby, has an airport, known in conversation as Baltimore Airport (BWI).
  4. Dallas has another airport called Dallas Love Field, but in conversation, everyone just says ‘Love Field.’
  5. Houston, Texas has two airports, IAH and HOU. IAH is known as either Intercontinental or Houston Bush airport in conversations. The official name is (George Bush Intercontinental Airport) William P Hobby (HOU) is known as Houston Hobby in conversation!
  6. Kansas City’s airport is labeled on the map as MCI (Mid-Content International), but in conversation, everyone calls it KCI, short for it’s official name Kansas City International.
  7. Raleigh-Durham International Airport is labeled as RDU on the map. Everyone calls it RDU.
  8. Seattle-Tacoma Airport is known in conversation as Sea-Tac (pronounced as words, not letters).
  9. The code of the New Orleans’ airport is MSY. This came from the Moisant Stock Yards. In conversation, the New Orleans’ airport is known as New Orleans or Louis Armstrong.


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Related Posts: 
Don't get caught in immigration - know what to pack! 
How to behave on a plane 
Getting around New York City

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