What’s in a three-letter code? More than an airport, it seems. 

Local media in India have reported that the city of Gaya’s three-letter IATA airport code, GAY, has been the subject of an Indian parliamentary panel.

The panel allegedly finds the three-letter code ‘inappropriate’ as Gaya is considered a holy city in India. The committee said the Indian government should try to replace the current IATA code of GAY with a more 'appropriate' one, suggesting ‘YAG’ as an alternative. 

Gaya is a holy city in the northeast Indian state of Bihar. It’s known for an 18th-century riverside temple with an octagonal shrine. Gaya International Airport is located a few kilometers away from the temple city of Bodhgaya, which is considered to be Gautama Buddha's place of enlightenment. 

Indian media said that according to officials in the Civil Aviation Ministry, IATA has expressed its inability to change the code without a "justifiable reason primarily related to air safety". IATA also stated that as per Resolution 763, the location codes allotted are permanent and to change this a strong justification primarily concerning air safety is needed. 

IATA airport codes, also known as IATA location identifiers, are three-letter geocodes defined by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for recognized airports around the world. 

Airport codes arose from pilots’ identification practice in the 1930s. Initially, pilots in the United States used the two-letter code from the National Weather Service for identifying cities. This system became unmanageable for cities and towns without an NWS identifier and a three-letter system of airport codes was implemented instead. 

The assignment of these codes is governed by IATA Resolution 763, and is administered by the administration’s headquarters in Montreal. 

A complete city code directory from IATA can be downloaded here