Have you ever wondered why Southwest Airlines uses the IATA code WN instead of SW? The primary reason is because SW was already taken…but may soon be available again.
A Rare Opportunity For Southwest Airlines, Courtesy Of Air Namibia
The urban legend is that Southwest uses WN because former Southwest Airlines President Colleen C. Barrett liked Willie Nelson. Nope. Some say that Southwest chose WN to create customer confusion with Northwest Airlines (NW). Another legend holds that when Southwest was informed that SW was taken, they were randomly assigned WN and said, “Why Not?”
Southwest actually started with the IATA code OE. It isn’t clear why it changed, but the WN was likely assigned randomly.
Why not SW? SW belonged to Air Namibia, which was known as South West Air Transport between 1959 and 1978. Former Southwest President Herb Kelleher did reach out to to Air Namibia in the 1980s to see if it would sell its code, especially with the name change, but Air Namibia allegedly wanted $10 million for it.
A decade later Southwest tried again shortly after Namibian independence and even offered a 737-200, but was again met with a price too steep.
Fast forward to today. Air Namibia just declared it was ceasing operations and would be liquidated. Will Southwest finally have the opportunity to obtain SW as its IATA code?
Hey, it might be a great way to pay severance packages for displaced employees from Air Namibia…
While we are all used to WN by now, SW would make a lot more sense. I hope Southwest is already at work trying to secure SW…
— Matthew Klint (@LiveandLetsFly) February 11, 2021