Airport Trading Cards: The Ultimate Aviation Geek Amenity

Airports & Airlines
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Baseball Teams have them, K-9 units have them as well and now you can collect airports you visit as well. I am talking about trading cards. The Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) started the American Airports Collectors Series (NAACS). The NAACS is a trading card program where ACI-NA member airports can release trading cards of their airport and make them available at the airport.

The program started back in 2014 but I just accidentally found out about it, when the San Francisco Airport tweeted about the release of their trading card, which was in early 2019. Back then the current series was the 2018 series of trading cards which got later replaced with the 2019 series.

What’s so special about these cards? Are they rare? Well not really, they don’t even have any value besides for aviation geeks who like to collect them. One thing, however, is really special about the cards, it’s the difficulty of getting them. The card itself shows a photo of something unique of the airport at the front with its IATA airport code. On the backside, you find information about the airport and its history as well as GPS coordinates of the airport.

Apparently not every airport participates, because they might not be an ACI-NA member, but even some ANI-NA member airports don’t participate. This program is completely voluntary for any airport to participate in. That’s the first part of the difficulty rating, but it’s easy to figure out which cards are available, as there is a list on the ACI-NA website and I started my own collectors and trading list. The real difficulty starts once you have identified a participating airport which you will visit and try to get the physical card.

Most airports hand them out at the information counters which are located before security. So even non-ticketed passengers can try their luck and get one. The problem is, the agents, many of them are volunteers, don’t know about the program or about the trading cards. The most interesting experience was at IAD. Their info booths even have a flyer of the trading card hanging at the info booth but the agent didn’t know about what I was talking about when I asked for the card. I told her, I am talking about what they advertise right next to her and she didn’t even know that there is such a thing. She looked around and made some phone calls and I was able to get mine but it’s just funny how badly airports actually handle that.

Other airports have them laying in stacks on the info counter. It really depends on the airport. When I visited an airport and nobody was able to find the actual cards, I contacted them on social media. The results were mixed. Some of the airports offered to mail me the card, heck MIA even sent me a nice greeting card with the trading card. Other airport social media teams don’t even respond back, even tho they are a member airport. I won’t give up to collect them all.

Sometimes it can help to try a different info counter or wait until they change shifts. I did some experiments and went to one info counter, they knew about the program and gave me the card and I walked to the next one, even in the same terminal and the person there never heard about that.

That’s why it is so hard to get them. Don’t expect to just walk up to an info counter at a participating airport and expect them to hand the card out. You need patience. If you are connecting at an airport, you can try to contact their social media team ahead of time and let them know that you are coming. For example, I talked to the Long Beach Airport social media team to find where the card is actually available. Lucky that I did, because it’s not in the actual terminal building. Because of the nice interaction with the staff there, I found out about the Long Beach Festival of Flight. But be aware, that most of the time you have to leave the secured area of the airport and therefore have to clear security again. Make sure you have enough time for that. In one of my cases, I had a long layover at CLT and used the Minute Suites but had to wait a little bit before a suite would become available. So I walked outside the secure area and searched for the info booth and was able to get a trading card but had to clear security again. Thanks to my TSAPre, I was right on time when my suite would become available.

One more thing: Just because an airport is not participating in the current series, doesn’t mean they don’t have the cards still available from an older series in which they participated. I created a list with the cards I currently have in my possession and I am willing to trade for a different one.

There are many ways to get these cards. What’s your strategy? Let me know in the comments.


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