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Oakland Officials Vote to Include ‘San Francisco’ in Airport's Name
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By Associated Press
Published 1 month ago on
April 12, 2024

Oakland officials vote to change the city's airport name to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport, despite potential legal threats from San Francisco. (AP File)

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Oakland officials have voted in favor of changing the name of the city’s airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport, despite San Francisco threatening a lawsuit over what it says is a trademark violation.

The Board of Commissioners for the Port of Oakland voted unanimously Thursday to move forward with the name-change and scheduled a second vote for final approval on May 9. The airport is currently called Oakland International Airport.

Oakland airport officials have said travelers unfamiliar with the region fly into San Francisco’s airport even if their destination is closer to the Oakland airport across the Bay. Modifying the name to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport will change that, they say. The airport’s three-letter code OAK would not change.

“We are standing up for Oakland and the East Bay,” Port Commission President Barbara Leslie said in a statement after the vote. “This name will make it clear that OAK is the closest major airport, for 4.1 million people, three national laboratories, the top public university in the country, and California’s Wine Country.”

Public Opinion on the Name Change

For nearly an hour, the commissioners listened to public comments that included some Oakland residents and several airline representatives who supported the name-change, and representatives of San Francisco tourism and hospitality interests who opposed it.

Some supporters asked commissioners to consider having Oakland ahead of San Francisco in the new name.

Next Steps for the Name Change

Once final approval comes next month, “staff will move forward with the formal renaming, including working with air carriers, other airports, and local agencies to reflect the modification in airport and airline systems,” the port commission said in a statement.

Oakland airport officials approved the name-change at a time when the city, like many other major cities, is grappling with rising crime and the fallout from losing the last professional sports team that called the city of 430,000 people home. Last week the Athletics announced that the team will leave Oakland after this season and play temporarily at a minor league park near Sacramento until their planned new stadium in Las Vegas is built.

With the A’s departing, the city that was also home to the NFL’s Raiders, the NBA’s Warriors and the NHL’s Seals will have no major sports teams.

San Francisco’s Opposition to the Name Change

The name-change suggestion had horrified San Francisco officials, who say it will confuse travelers, especially those flying in from abroad. Ivar C. Satero, director of San Francisco’s airport, had said they are “deeply concerned” over the potential for customer confusion and disservice. San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu on Tuesday threatened to sue Oakland officials if they pursue the name-change, arguing it would violate the city’s trademark on “San Francisco International Airport.”

San Francisco “has held these registrations for such a long time that they have become incontestable under federal law,” Chiu wrote in a letter to various Oakland officials.

Helen Han, a San Francisco resident, said she doesn’t agree with changing the name because travelers could confuse the two, especially those visiting the Bay Area for the first time.

“It would create a lot of confusion for those who are traveling to either Oakland or San Francisco,” Han said. “I can imagine myself if it’s my first time visiting SF, I would be really confused (when deciding) which airport I need to fly to.”

Aaron Peskin, president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, introduced a resolution last week opposing the name-change and requesting the port commission reject it.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, who represents San Francisco, said on the social media platform X that the airport shouldn’t be “cutting & pasting” San Francisco’s name.

“I love Oakland, but Oakland is Oakland. It’s not San Francisco,” he wrote. “Please find another way to turn things around.”

But other users on X pointed out that San Francisco’s airport is actually located in Millbrae, a city in San Mateo County.

One person quipped, “When are we renaming the 49ers? #SantaClara.” The San Francisco 49ers play at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, which sits just outside San Jose and is about 45 miles south of San Francisco.

Impact on Oakland’s Aviation Industry

Craig Simon, the Port of Oakland’s interim aviation director, said Metropolitan Oakland International Airport, as it’s officially known, lost 39 of 54 new routes added from July 2008 to March 2024.

“Market research and interviews with airline partners have shown that routes have not performed as well as they should have due to the lack of geographic awareness, making air carriers reluctant to sustain and add new routes in Oakland,” Simon said in a statement before the vote.

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