IATA is a company that issues the airports with the three letter codes. Interestingly, they have also issued some Railway Stations with IATA codes. Using these can create innovative itineraries. You could start a route from your home town, and bake the price of the journey to the airport into the ticket, or perhaps once you arrive overseas, you could start creating overland stops on your vacation.
For starters, we have alliances with the some of the major European train networks, TGV in France (with AirFrance) and the Deutche Bahn in Germany (with a slew of airlines). However, many of these appear to be valid only with revenue tickets. The programs all have their little quirks, for example Lufthansa wants you booked via their ticketing system to qualify for rail, and AirBerlin will allow railways to be bolted on for flat fees (29 Euro 2nd Class/ 58 Euro in 1st Class) And while this is a fun bit of trivia, and can be helpful to people traveling to such destinations, its not the motivation behind this post.
Despite there being a cluster of rail options in Germany and France, there are actually around 200 ‘airport coded rail stations’. I took the data from Wikipedia, and put them into a map for ease of viewing. There may be a few lifemile-esque errors in where they are displayed, that was an issue on my geotagging side, so if something looks weird, cross check the City with Wikipedia which is more likely to be accurate.
Map of IATA coded Railway Stations
Booking some of these IATA codes isn’t particularly easy. Some websites reject them, such as Kayak, but I found Orbitz offered a few positive results. It’s a case of trial and error.
How about award tickets?
That process of trial and error quickly led me to explore if we could find award tickets like this, and again I had mixed results. I think that there is some value here, but it will involve some elbow grease on your part – from my testing of routes it seems to be that the ones that hit as possible have been coded into the particular booking engine – IE they are all valid destinations, but not all have been loaded into the booking engines, and if they aren’t there, I think it is unlikely that you’ll get them ticketed, even by calling in.
The Amtrak – United Codeshare
Amtrak and United formed a Rail and Fly partnership (details here) the partnership is pretty limited,with only 4 railway stations being options, they are Philadelphia (ZFV), Wilmington (ZWI), Stamford (ZTF) and New Haven (ZVE) you can book award trips from these locations, and your rail ticket will be included at no additional charge:
I found it pretty interesting that there were 190 IATA Railway stations listed, some of them are directly connected to the airport, while others can be quite far from the nearest international airport. I’m going to leave this post here, if you know of anyone who lives near those Amtrak stations they might benefit from the award ticket information, and if you want to take things further yourself, there are a couple of ‘routes’ to explore one for the tricky folk, and the other looking to see if there might be other Rail and Fly partnerships, they seem to be popping all the time. One of the latest being in the UK between Singapore Airlines and First Great Western.