Thanks to Twitter and its unbelievably short limitations on messages – just 140 characters, the length of original text messages (Twitter was supposed to be a platform for mobile phones exclusively, initially) – cities throughout the United States, including Portland, are often referenced by their major airport’s International Air Transport Association (IATA) location identifier.

In the case of Portland, the Portland International Airport’s IATA location code is PDX.

However, Portlanders love their airport for many reasons, so let’s delve into the history of PDX!

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Brief History of IATA Location Identifiers (It’s not boring – we promise!)

Airport codes first saw use in the 1930s as a convenient way for new pilots (they were all pretty new at that time) to quickly identify cities. The system started with two-letter identification codes for each airport stemming from the National Weather Service’s (NWS) identification system for cities.

Since many cities and towns had small airports but weren’t identified by the NWS, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) developed a three-letter system. Adding a third letter allows for 17,576 individual airport identifiers worldwide. We’re betting that should be plenty unless we all start driving flying cars (where are our flying cars, by the way?! Back to the Future II lied!).

Some airports’ codes come from the first three letters of the name of the city – ATL for Atlanta, for example. Others, like Portland, use the first two letters of the weather system’s identifier, “PD,” and add an “X” on the end, a letter likely chosen since there are few, if any, cities that have the letter “X” in their names.

Portland, Maine, our arch nemesis, is PDM where “PD” shares its roots with the weather system and the “M” stands for the state of Maine.

Brief History of the Portland International Airport (PDX)

Portland’s first airport was located on Swan Island following the Port of Portland’s purchase of 256 acres with construction starting in 1926 and Charles Lindbergh dedicating the airport in 1927. Just eight years later, the airport was obsolete since it couldn’t be expanded. The space is now used as an industrial park.

Our current airport as we know it opened in 1940 and was a project supported by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression starting in 1936, providing needed jobs to area residents during the time. The main terminal we currently know and love was first opened in 1959, and expansion with additional terminals and runways taking place over the following decades.

The Portland International Airport (PDX) is the largest airport in Oregon and is a joint civil-military airport (explaining why we so often see fighter jets flying in and out of the airport) with the Oregon Air National Guard having a base on the southwest part of the campus. In addition to domestic flights throughout the U.S., PDX offers non-stop service to Canada, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Why Portlanders love their airport

Portlanders love PDX thanks to Portland International Airport’s ease of access, convenient location, and amenities including a variety of shops, restaurants, and overall comfort along with its perceived levels of safety and security.

These features led PDX to regularly win many awards over the years, most recently:

  • 2006 – Top Airport for Business Travelers – Condé Nast Traveler
  • 2007 – Top Airport for Business Travelers – Condé Nast Traveler
  • 2008 – Top Airport for Business Travelers – Condé Nast Traveler
  • 2010 – Top Airport for Business Travelers – Condé Nast Traveler
  • 2013 – Best U.S. Airport – Travel + Leisure Magazine
  • 2015 – Airport of the Year – Air Line Pilots Association, International
  • 2015 – #1 U.S. Large Passenger Airport – J.D. Power and Associates
  • 2016 – #1 U.S. Large Passenger Airport – J.D. Power and Associates

In 2017, PDX got smacked down on J.D. Power’s satisfaction survey, dropping to fifth place from first the prior two years, falling behind Nashville, TN; Dallas, TX; Tampa, FL; and Orange County, CA.

You can bet the Port of Portland won’t take this epic loss lying down, though – so watch this space!

Do you love PDX?

Does the Portland International Airport rise to your altitude or does it crash-and-burn? Leave your flight plan in the comments!