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What secrets hide airline boarding passes

From the moment we arrive at the airport and until we collect our luggage, the boarding pass will tell you about our every step.

Фото: Depositphotos

Have you ever wondered what this set of letters and numbers means?

Your boarding pass contains a lot of information, from the direction of the plane to how important the route of the airline you fly to.

As you already know, the two letters at the beginning of the flight number indicate the airline itself.


These two-letter codes are issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association for international airlines. And, of course, neither of the two airlines can have the same code.

Many of them seem to be useless. QF is Qantas, VA is Virgin Australia (Virgin Atlantic uses VS), JQ - Jetstar Australia, AA - American Airlines, BA - British Airways, NZ - Air New Zealand.

But other labels are less obvious - like WN, which is the code for Southwest Airlines and AY, which uses Finnair.

And here's why: when Southwest Airlines requested my code, SW was already taken - and is still in use today - Air Namibia. It's because Air Namibia used to be called South West Air Transport.

Similar Finnair called Aero O / Y once, therefore ay.

The figures

Numbers show much more information. For a start, the smaller the number, the more prestigious the route is, for example, Qantas' Sydney-London service, QF1.

“Airlines often give start numbers to their more prestigious long haul routes,” said Patrick Smith. “If an airline has flight 001 on its schedule, it's often London-Sydney or Paris-New York.”

It is also important whether your flight is an even or odd number. There are exceptions, but flights heading east or north are often given even numbers, and when moving west or south, they are assigned odd numbers.

Qantas uses odd numbers for outbound international flights (such as QF1 to London) and even numbers for incoming international flights (for example, QF44 from Denpasar to Sydney).

On flights Qantas flights 1 to 399 are international flights including codes, and flight numbers 400 are domestic flights.

As a rule, for most airlines, four-digit flight numbers starting with 3 or higher show flights with codes operated by partners.

For example, flight British Airways BA7420 is a flight from Auckland to Sydney operated by Qantas.

Airlines have the freedom to assign flight numbers, and some can be quite creative. For example, flight American Airlines AA1776 from Boston to Philadelphia pays homage to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which occurred in Philadelphia in 1776.


Superstition sometimes affects numbers. Many airlines have included 8 number in their Asian routes, because this number is considered lucky in many Asian cultures.

For example, flight United Airlines from San Francisco to Beijing - UA888.

“Lucky” numbers are sometimes also used on flights to popular gambling sites.

But there are numbers that airlines do not like to use.

Sometimes it is also associated with superstition that excludes the "unlucky" numbers 13 and 666. Another rare number is 911.

Airlines have traditionally removed the numbers of crashed flights. Flight MH370 Kuala Lumpur - Beijing, which previously flew from Malaysia Airlines, now uses the number MH360.

In other cases, flight numbers may not change for a very long time.

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