In a report tabled in parliament last month, In the‘s Committee on Public Enterprises has recommended to the government that the airport code for Gaya Airport, also known as Bodhgaya Airport, be changed. The panel called on government officials to take up the matter with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
An IATA airport code is a three-letter geocode, defined by IATA, that identifies many airports and metropolitan areas around the world. The characters are prominently displayed on luggage tags attached to airport sign counters, as well as on airline tickets, etc.
IATA’s current code for Gaya Airport is ‘GAY’ which considers the panels ‘inappropriate’ as Gaya, located in India’s northeastern state of Bihar, is a holy city and a major Hindu pilgrimage site. It is also a sacred place for the religions of Jainism and Buddhism, with the Mahabodhi Temple, a World Heritage Site, which is said to be the place where the Buddha obtained enlightenment.
Committee members described the IATA code as ‘offensive and embarrassing’ and called for it to be replaced, suggesting an alternative code such as ‘YAG’.
However, according to IATA rules, there must be a justifiable reason related to air safety to authorize a change in the code. The Ministry of Civil Aviation told the panel that “The GAY code for Gaya has been in use since the operational operation of this airport; therefore, without any justifiable reason mainly on air safety, IATA expressed its inability to change the code of Gaya Airport ”.
Meanwhile, LGBTQ rights groups say the attempt at name change speaks of increasing homophobia, with Indrajeet Ghorpade, an LGBTQ rights lawyer from the group Yes, We Exist India, saying: “It is shameful that instead of celebrating that “India has such a unique code for an airport and makes it a symbol of inclusivity, the government wants to do what it does best, change names”.