Air Europa * 2

On the airport Web site, if you look for the airline name Air Europa you see that it appears twice. Until the airport get their house in order, here is the explanation!

On the GVA.ch airport web site you can ask for the arrivals or departures, for yesterday, today or tomorrow and specify your search. One of the criteria that you can enter is the name of the airline.

If you choose to enter the name "AIR EUROPA" you will see two apparently identical choices. However, they give different results, which you might find puzzling (especially if you don't find the flight that you have booked!). The underlying cause of this is the curious way in which the airport chooses to indicate the flight on their arrivals and departures board, so here is the explanation!

All airlines registered with the International Air Transport Association IATA, have a two-character identifier, to which is added a specific flight number. Thus, Swiss has the identifier LX, whilst Lufthansa has LH, easyJet Switzerland has DS and easyJet UK has U2 (which might make you recall the famous U-2 incident of May 1, 1960). Unfortunately, there are more candidates than available pairs, so sometimes there are duplications.

All enterprises which may own aircraft may also have a 3-letter identifier attributed to them by the International Civil Aviation Organisation ICAO. For the above-mentioned airlines, these are SWR, DLH, EZS and EZY respectively. Sometimes these are easier to understand (though SWR dates back to Swissair, whilst DLH sometimes gets confused with DHL!). These ICAO identifiers are normally used for the call signs emitted by aircraft making passenger flights.

Where things get complicated is when two or more airlines give their own flight identifiers to a single flight: this is known as code sharing. Thus, the first departure every morning at 6am is operated by Swiss as flight LX2801, but is code-shared by the parent company as flight LH5855. On GVA.ch it can be found by looking for Swiss or Lufthansa.

On the arrivals/departures board the airport sometimes chooses to use the IATA indicator, but at other times the ICAO indicator. In particular, easyJet (which never shares codes) has its flights listed as either EZS or EZY.

So, to get back to Air Europa, its ICAO identifier is AEA, but its IATA indicator is UX. It may share codes with flights operated by Air France (AFR / AF). It appears that the airport management has decided that its own flights will be given using the ICAO indicator AEA, but the code share flights will use UX. Thus, when in the airport web site you see twice AIREUROPA, the first checks for AEA flights, whilst the second checks for UX (code share) flights. Obvious, isn't it.

There is also a curiosity relevant to the flights of Flybaboo and of Darwin, who took over Flybaboo. Flybaboo had the identifiers BBO and F7 attributed to it, whilst Darwin had DWT and 0D (the latter starting with a zero, not the letter O). When both were flying, the airport used both IATA codes (F7 and 0D). However, recently the Darwin flights are now shown using F7: strange, because I cannot find any IATA document detailing a change!

Clearer now?

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