When is Southwest not Southwest?

Most airlines have a two-letter code that identifies them. These codes are assigned by IATA, the International Air Transport Association. IATA regulates how member airlines work with each other. Passengers usually notice the airline and airport codes on boarding passes or bag-check tags. These were established so that airlines around the world have a way to do business and to communicate with each other across language and political barriers.

The IATA code for Southwest is WN. Most people would assume Southwest’s code to be SW. But when Southwest joined IATA, SW was already in use by South West Air Transport, now called Air Namibia (SW may also refer to the country’s former name of Southwest Africa.)

The story/urban legend about how Southwest became WN is kind of funny. That is to aviation geeks anyway. Northwest used NW. And since Southwest could be considered the mirror image of Northwest geographically, IATA flipped NW to WN (think REDRUM / MURDER from The Shining.)  Somebody at IATA may have had a sense of humor. Or maybe at Southwest. Airlines do have input on what codes they get. Then again, it may have been a simple luck of the draw. I prefer the story. It’s much more fun.

IATA does allow airline codes to be recycled six months after the previous owner goes out of business. Some codes are so iconic I doubt they will ever be used again. PA must always stay Pan American. Let’s have some respect for the dearly departed.


Today, with all the new airlines, IATA has run out of unique two-letter codes. Numerals have been added to the mix. That’s why is B6 is jetBlue.

Sibir Siberian Airlines has the code S7. Sibir has now rebranded and does business as “S7 Airlines.”


If you happen to enter airline geek websites such as airliners.net and use SW for Southwest you will be quickly and firmly corrected.


den storm

I checked the flight status for my departure tonight at about 11:00 this morning. It has already been delayed by over an hour!

There are two probable causes. The first, and less likely reason is that there are mechanical issues. Midway is one of Southwest’s largest hubs, even though Southwest claims not to have hubs. There shouldn’t be a problem swapping aircraft.

The more probable issue is the weather. Chicago and the Midwest have been having afternoon thunderstorms for the last few days. Southwest may be spreading out departures, preemptively delaying flights to ensure connections are made, and/or the FAA is instituting “flow control,” meaning it is purposely spreading out flights to ensure the safety of the skies in one of the most congested parts of the country.

My biggest fear is that we leave the gate and then sit on the ramp for hours! Or that Southwest un-delays the flights, which they tend to do. I almost missed a flight once because of that! So I have to leave for the airport as if the flight were right on time. I’m charging up all my iDevices for what could be a long journey to San Francisco.

My other fear for today is packing. Though Southwest lets bags fly free, they can’t be over fifty pounds. There is NO WAY I am taking two suitcases. Dragging one on the subway is already a pain.

Wish me luck!

I’m NOT happy!

Leaving on a jet plane!!!!

southweastI’m jetting out of here! My vacation to San Francisco starts this Friday afternoon. I’m heading down to Midway. Despite my living geographically a bit closer to O’Hare, Midway is the easier airport for public transportation purposes. I’ve flown almost exclusively out of Midway in the last year. It is a very efficient airport with good food options. However I’m getting a bit bored with it. I guess I need to get out to O’Hare again.

As you can see, I’ve checked in online with Southwest. I’ve gotten a boarding number A30!  I paid for the Early Bird option. The thing to take into account on Southwest boarding positions is that A1 to A15 are blocked for Business Select tickets, elite frequent flyers or those willing to pay $40.00 at the gate to jump to the front of the line. So that position may be better than it looks.

I’m going to soak in all that aviation goodness! Everything from the Sky Mall catalogue, safety card, condition of the cabin and many more details. My favorite seat is the second exit row window. Not only do I get to watch the scenery, I also can see how all those moving parts of a wing keep me in the air.