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From Wikipedia > List of Airlines

There are around 5000 airlines with IATA codes.

From Wikipedia > List of Airlines Codes

IATA airline designators [..] are two-character codes [..]

and

after an airline is delisted, the code becomes available for reuse after six months


The last quotation suggests that no two airline companies can share the same IATA code.

Depending on the characters allowed, a two-character codes can make $26^2=676$ combinations or eventually $36^2=1296$ combinations. It would take at least 71 different characters authorized to register 5000 companies ($71^2=5041$). It is unlikely that 71 or more characters are authorized. It seems paradoxical to me.

What am I misunderstanding?

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    $\begingroup$ In this list from IATA themselves, there are about 260 airlines with a IATA code. $\endgroup$ – mins Feb 21 '16 at 1:27
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It's obviously an error in that Wikipedia page. The "5000 airlines with IATA codes" text actually links to:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airline_codes

which lists lots of airlines (over 6000), but most of those have ICAO (3 letter) codes, but not IATA (2 letter) codes.

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