How to Talk About Airports in the USA

Posted On: September 12, 2015

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*

For each airport, I will list its full name, it’s code, city served, state and how it’s noted in conversation.

  1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, ATL, Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta
  2. Los Angeles International Airport, LAX, Los Angeles, California, LAX- spelling out each letter (eL – aYY- eX)
  3. O’Hare International Airport, ORD, Chicago, Illinois, O’Hare
  4. Dallas/Fort Worth International  Airport, DFW, Dallas, Fort Worth, Texas, DFW (dee – eF – double u)
  5. Denver International Airport, DEN, Denver, Colorado, DIA (dee – eye- day) (Denver International Airport) 
  6. Tourist Gifts from DIA
  7. John F. Kennedy International  Airport, JFK, New York City, New York State, JFK (jay- eff- kay) 
  8. San Francisco International Airport, San Francisco, California, SFO (eSS – eF- Oh) 
  9. Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, Seattle, Washington, SEA, Sea-Tac or Sea-Tac Airport (pronounced as “see-tack”)
  10. A view of Mt. Rainier from SEA-TAC Airport

  11. McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada, LAS, McCarran or Las Vegas 
  12. Orlando International Airport, Orlando, Florida, Orlando

*Listed on Wikipedia as of July 10, 2020 

If you’re looking for some help on how to spell English alphabets with a US accent, see this video below.

  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. (Make sure that you don’t mess up the pronunciation of Newark and New York.)
  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.
Jennifer, blog author, in the Salt Lake City, Utah airport ready to go to India!

Will you be traveling to the US for business? Or maybe you will be moving to the US for projects onsite at the client site? Jennifer Kumar, through Authentic Journeys offers the US Culture Training Finishing School, which prepares your team for travel to the US. In this cross-cultural training we discuss everything from how to pack your bags, how to get a social security card, bank account, hotel and service apartment etiquette, find an apartment, take care of leases, credit scores, driving in the US, and much more. Already more than 500 professionals have attended this session in India. Professionals worldwide can attend this session via webinar or conference call. Learn more about this program or contact us for more information.

Related Posts: 
Don’t get caught in immigration – know what to pack! 
How to behave on a plane 

Photo credits: Jennifer & Krishna Kumar



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