Oakland’s airport wants to change its name, and it’s asking residents for feedback.
On Monday, David DeWitt, a spokesperson for the Port of Oakland, which operates Oakland International Airport, said the airport recently sent a survey to 700 registered voters in Oakland to get their thoughts on a potential rebrand. DeWitt said market research indicates that national and international travelers are unfamiliar with Oakland and its proximity to the San Francisco Bay.
“This lack of awareness depressed inbound passenger demand, even from passengers flying to destinations near Oakland,” DeWitt told The Oaklandside. He added that the imbalance between inbound and outbound demand has reduced service to Oakland’s airport, especially long-haul routes to popular destinations on the East Coast and in Europe.
On Reddit, where the survey has generated some discussion, some wrote they were in favor of the name change if it makes it easier to book flights to the East Coast out of Oakland. Others objected to any rebrand that tries to link Oakland’s airport with San Francisco.
“Nothing referencing SF,” said commenter Apprehensive-Week13. “They have an airport. It’s hella far away.”
Several people floated possible name changes—some serious, others less so: Oakland/Golden Gate International Airport; Golden State Airport; Oakland-San Francisco Airport; Tom Hanks International Airport; E40 International Airport.
The survey doesn’t list potential new names, and it doesn’t ask residents for name ideas. Instead, it asks how comfortable people would feel about a name change that reflects the airport’s service area, which is defined as the “San Francisco East Bay Region.”
DeWitt emphasized that the port doesn’t intend to remove the word “Oakland” from the name of the airport. The airport’s call sign, “OAK,” will also remain untouched. He said the reband “may add a geographic identifier” to the airport’s name to help inbound passengers understand the airport’s proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Any decisions on this issue, among other marketing or development plans, must be heard and approved by the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners, which is a public process.
The rebrand campaign is the latest in a series of moves to make Oakland International Airport a more attractive destination for travelers. Last month, the port released a draft environmental impact report for the planned expansion and modernization of the airport. The proposed project would upgrade the existing two terminals and add a new one with up to 16 passenger gates.
Airport officials claim this is necessary because passenger demand is projected to skyrocket over the next 15 years. According to the report, OAK will serve 17.6 million annual passengers by 2028. By 2038, it expects to have 24.7 million per year. Last year, the airport reported over 11 million passengers—a rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic’s first two years, but still below the recent peak in 2019.
According to the survey, online search engines like Google Flights, Kayak and Expedia, frequently don’t offer Oakland International Airport as an option for travelers searching for flights to San Francisco. The survey also links the rebrand to Oakland’s long-term financial health. It asks respondents to rank the importance of potential benefits of attracting more flights to Oakland, which include creating more jobs, improving the local economy, preventing the loss of international flights, and “raising Oakland’s profile as a major American city.”
The survey also says the airport currently provides more than 15,000 jobs and has a $1.6 billion economic impact on the region.
On the Reddit thread discussing the survey, one person suggested renaming the airport “Las Vegas” to spite the Athletics and Raiders.
Others said no change is their preferred outcome.
“Keep the name, and just advertise more,” a person wrote. “Them changing the name of the airport just further erodes everything associated with the city.”