Here’s why Orlando International Airport goes by MCO, not OIA

MCO as a code has military roots

Orlando International Airport on Thursday, Dec. 22, 2022. (Jacob Langston, Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

ORLANDO, Fla. – What’s your nickname for Orlando International Airport?

Some people say OIA. Some people say MCO, which is the airport’s official code.

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But the airport wants to make sure you know — it’s MCO.

In fact, they tweeted about it recently.

The airport’s MCO designation is rooted in its military past.

Orlando International Airport was originally a military base dating as far back as the 1940s when it was Pinecastle Army Airfield. In 1958 it was renamed McCoy Air Force Base after Colonel Michael McCoy, who was killed during a bombing competition.

The airport was designated MCO after the base name, and even though the military base closed in 1975, those letters haven’t changed. The airport became Orlando International in 1976.

If you ask people around Orlando though, the preference is divided, and if you Google “OIA,” the airport is the first thing to pop up, followed by Oia, a village in Greece, and the Outdoor Industry Association.

“OIA is a popular name,” said airport spokesperson Carolyn Fennell. “But there is already an airport that has that name in Brazil.”

Airport codes are designated by the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for the air travel industry that governs a number of airport policies. These location identifier codes are supposed to make communication easier for pilots, air traffic controllers and other parts of the travel industry.

Each three-letter designation is unique to the airport for convenience reasons.

In the case of “OIA,” it already stands for Ourilândia do Norte Airport – an airport in Brazil that is now closed.

“There are nearly 9,000 airport codes and to make a change would require a lot of coordination,” Fennell said.

Fennell said the airport has made MCO part of its marketing to get people to think of the airport by those letters.

So do you call the airport OIA or MCO?

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About the Author:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.