Something seriously in a name

There is something recently unique about the Clark International Airport. Yes, it is the only international airport in the world that, in its official press releases in recent memory, uses a contracted code, namely CRK, imposed by Montreal-based foreigners.

CRK was born, not in Pampanga, but in Montreal Canada, as a creation of the International Air Transport Associations (IATA) which holds executive offices, not in Angeles City, but in Switzerland.

IATA came out with such codes for various airports worldwide, and these have become “essential for the identification of an airline, its destinations, and its traffic documents.” The codes are also used for electronic applications, such as for monitoring of aircraft arrivals and departures in small TV screens in airports.

Yes, the codes are also useful for baggage boys, bless them, that’s why they- the codes not the boys- are prominently displayed on baggage tags.

What reason can there be in pushing familiarlity with CRK with reference to the Clark airport? Let’s take brevity because it is obvious CRK is shorter than Clark. Would dropping the letters L and A be significant achievement for brevity? In the realm of typing, does it take shorter time to shift to all caps CRK than one cap followed by small case Clark?

On the oral side. Say Clark and notice one syllable. Pronounce CRK and end up saying See Are Kay, three syllables. There’s no doubt CRK losses in comparison here.

It’s also worth looking at the marketing side of CRK. Those of us already familiar with Clark International Airport would not find burden memorizing a new item about the airport. That is, that CRK has reference to the beloved airport of local dreams.

In marketing a product yet unfamiliar to a great multitude of potential domestic and international fliers, is wisdom not far behind CRK? To promote Clark in this sector with an added memory task that CRK is the same creature as Clark International Airport is hardly good marketing. Familiarity breeds patronage here. That’s why products come out with repetitive advertisements; that’s why, despite its age, Colgate remains Colgate not CGT or something. No one, but no one who pins much hope and investment in Clark airport would hurrah any move to promote the airport as CRK.

There’s also pride, if not nationalism and sentimentality, in naming things important to us. That’s why when the Philippine government took over Clark from the US military and founded it as an economic zone, there was argument on what name it should be given. Some suggested Mabuhay, some Jose Rizal. But the name Clark won, not because Clark was Filipino too, but for reasons of marketing. An economic zone had to be promoted internationally and, as the argument went, the name Clark already had a recall value in the international memory.

Even later, the airport’s name passed through serious arguments of people of good reputation. In 2001, Clark airport was named after former president Diosdado Macapagal on the occasion of his 91st birth anniversary. Ten years later, the name was reverted back to Clark, again on the premise that the term was already familiar to the international community and was thus a plus factor for a free port.

This history was disregarded by CRK.

Other international airports abroad also have reasons for their names. Kennedy International Airport In New York, Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Thailand, Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport in Angola, Ministro Pistranini International Airport in Argentina, etc. Without inquiring into the details in the names, one deciphers importance, dignity, history, if not marketability in them.

Not one of them uses AITA codes in their officials communications, except for instances wherein reference to such code is practical calling.

How to contract the names for holy brevity? The usual practice is to jettison the word “international.” Period.