Is referring to cities by their airport code a Taiwan thing?

On the forums here, I’ve noticed quite a few examples of people referring to an entire city (not the airport) using the airport code. Well, in the case of Taipei, people are using the Taoyuan airport code (TPE).

Here are some examples (and there are more if you search):

Is this specific to English speakers in Taiwan? Or people on this forum?

I’m a native English speaker but would never refer to Tokyo as HND or San Francisco as SFO, for example, unless I’m actually talking about the airports, so this use is really interesting to me.

I might refer to San Francisco as “SF,” but I don’t think that’s what people are doing here (TPE and KHH don’t seem like natural abbreviations to me, and I think people are purposely using the airport code). Or am I wrong?

I don’t think it’s specific, but i think it was a fashion at some time, particularly with well-travelled types. Probably just stuck.

You might call Osaka by it’s airport code, though, just for KIX… :drum:

A legit example might be DFW


I’ve referred to San Francisco as SFO, especially when I’m setting up a Zoom call and one participant is there (so I don’t have to sweat whether it’s daylight savings time).

I’ve often seen Veteran’s General Hospital in Taipei referred to as VGHTPE or TPE-VGH. Indeed, it’s actually their web URL

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Wow, I’m a frequent flyer and never call whole cities by their airport code, so it’s cool to see other examples!

hahaha, this actually made me laugh :slight_smile:

ahh yeah, I can see this!

Interesting examples!!

Actually i’ve heard Canadians refer to their cities by airport code too.

Particularly bizarre as YYZ and YTL aren’t very intuitive


USA people in the Oregon like use PDX for the big township there.

or ATL

Urban Dictionary: ATL


I heard Mont-joli is where the UFO base is.

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Pretty common all over the world, I thought. Certainly in Asia and North America, anyway.


This is common practice among Chinese, not just Taiwanese. Although I agree with you that in the US this would be considered a very bizarre practice.

Not common at all in the US. Very bizarre. In the US we say LA, SF, NY, DC, etc. Most major US cities have multiple airports anyway, so I don’t know how you would even call those cities by their airport code.

In the UK, they do try to market some cities with three letter acronyms, not necessarily airport code

LDN, MCR… uhhh… ELY? Oh wait

Common in newer trendy cities liek ATL and PDX, nit like older backwards cities like Boston.

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Are you even from the US? I am. Super common there…ATX, PDX, DFW, DEN, OKC, SFO, JAX, ATL, etc. etc.

In Asia another big one besides TPE is BKK. Thai people use the latter abbreviation all the time.

It should go without saying that it’s more common for cities where the airport code is also a pretty clearly recognizable abbreviation for the city. Wouldn’t really work for Chicago, for example. PDX and YYZ are exceptions to that rule.


In :us: we may write PDX to sub for Portland, but it’s never really verbal unless we’re actually talking about the airport. It’s just easier verbally to say Portland. I also think Portland is an exception to the rule.

ATL is a bad example because it can just as much be an abbreviation for the city and isn’t strictly an airport code, as is DFW, as is say MIA. Take LAX, for example. What’s the X stand for? It’s arbitrary, not found in “Los Angeles.” It’s purely an airport code. So we do not say he’s in LAX, unless he’s at the airport. Same with New York/JFK, and La Guardia we really just say the whole name (verbally).

Which also brings me to my next point, often with a ton of airports we honestly just verbalize the name, like the aforementioned La Guardia (LGA). Or O’Hare (ORD). Or Newark (EWR).

Orlando, for example. Another major hub. We never say MCO, unless specifically that person is at the airport. We just say he’s in Orlando.

There’s always exceptions to rules, but these are the rules.


TPE, though, is turning a two syllable word into three syllables, although i doubt anyone says TPE out loud.

KHH is the same, except the city it represents is possibly the least intuitive to spell and pronounce. (Although so is London come to think of it)

Gaho-shon? :confounded:

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These are written abbreviations. Nobody says “TPE” or “BKK” or “ATX” out loud. I guess DFW and OKC are exceptions, but those actually reduce the number of syllables.


Why would Boston be considered backwards?

Probably just a business thing? It is definitely not common in Taiwan outside of such constant travelling folks. Outside of work, I have yet to hear anyone on the street use these to refer to a city.

Only weird one is when the country of Taiwan is called by a city name. that seems common.

Plus TPE isnt Taipei…so it’s kinda dumb from the get go. Maybe TYN would have been somewhat accurate.

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