Oakland Votes to Add ‘San Francisco’ to Airport Name, Setting Up Bay Area Showdown

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Oakland officials have decided to press ahead with renaming the city’s airport “San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport,” despite San Francisco’s threats to sue.

The Oakland Board of Port Commissioners on Thursday unanimously voted to approve the change. A second vote to give final approval to the new name is expected to take place May 9.

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Oakland officials have argued that people unfamiliar with the Bay Area are flying into San Francisco even if their ultimate destination is closer to the airport currently named Oakland International Airport. Adding “San Francisco” to the airport’s name, they say, would help to rectify the problem.

“We are standing up for Oakland and the East Bay; this will boost inbound travelers’ geographic awareness of the airport by highlighting the airport’s location on the San Francisco Bay,” Port Commission President Barbara Leslie said in a statement following Thursday’s vote.

“This name will make it clear that OAK [Oakland’s airport code] 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.”

Once final approval is granted for the name change 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. The OAK airport code and “visual brand” of the airport will remain the same, the commission added.

Across the Bay, San Francisco officials have been appalled by the proposed name change. San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu told KNTV on Monday that the renaming would “cause immense confusion and chaos for travelers—especially visitors who do not speak or read English.”

Chiu added that the current proposal “infringes on SFO’s trademarks,” referring to San Francisco International Airport. In a letter Monday to the Port of Oakland Commission, Chiu alleged that the rebrand appeared to be intended to “intentionally divert travelers who may be unfamiliar with the relevant geography” and asked the Oakland officials to reconsider.

“If the Port of Oakland instead elects to proceed with the proposed name change, then unfortunately the City will have no choice other than to pursue necessary legal action,” Chiu wrote, according to KNTV. That action would reportedly include trademark infringement and dilution claims under state and federal law.

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