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Why Does an Airport's Name Matter?

Why Does an Airport's Name Matter?

BY HADI AHMAD Published on May 13, 2024 0 COMMENTS

If you want to market a product well, various factors must be considered such as the product name. This principle applies to airports as well. There are multiple factors behind why entities choose to name airports the way they do, most notably, the decision of what to name an airport. 


Photo: Josh H., AeroXplorer


All in the Name

Unsurprisingly, an airport's name is the largest “pull”, or appeal that it can offer. You can see an airport's name everywhere, be it on  advertisements, signs, or search engines. 




An airport's name should be appealing and especially take into account its location whether it's the city the airport serves or nearby landmarks. After all, airports use their names as unofficial advertisements to promote passenger growth and wider development within their respective regions.


If an airport's name is appealing enough, more passengers will likely choose to fly to that airport over another one. Not only this but airlines might even choose to serve cleverly named airports over others too.


Take the case of New York City for example. The City itself has three airports located nearby: New York LaGuardia (LGA), Kennedy (JFK), and Newark Liberty (EWR). However, there is another airport that bears the "New York" name despite being located quite a far distance from the City itself.




This airport is New York Stewart International Airport (SWF) located in Newburgh, New York, about 70 miles upstate from New York City. Stewart Airport was originally called "Newburgh Stewart" until 2018. It was here when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the same entity running the major NYC airports among others, decided to change the airport's name to emphasize its proximity to New York City.


No matter what you think of the airport's renaming, this move ended up being of benefit to Stewart Airport. Adding "New York" to the name attracted numerous low-cost airlines to the airport. 


Low-cost airlines are infamous for serving airports located further away from major cities. This is because smaller airports are cheaper to serve than the major airports near large cities. Allegiant Air, Breeze Airways, and PLAY Airlines presently serve New York Stewart. The airport previously saw Norwegian Air Shuttle service until the airline shut down. Furthermore, Atlantic Airways operates seasonal service with Discover Airlines mulling full-time service.




But how do airports that advertise a particular city or landmark (despite being located far away from them) get passengers to where they want to go?

The answer to this question varies by airport, but in the case of Stewart Airport, it offers bus services to New York City. Furthermore, the airport is about 15 minutes from Beacon Train Station that offers direct Metro-North train service to Grand Central Terminal.


Oakland Airport's Rename

Oakland California is located across the San Francisco Bay from the actual city of San Francisco. The distance between the two cities is about 12 miles, but the travel time can vary based on traffic.


In any case, Oakland's location in the Bay Area recently prompted a name change proposal for its airport. Oakland International Airport (OAK) is looking to change its name to the "San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport". 




This name change makes sense given Oakland's location in the Bay Area. Furthermore, the airport slogan is “The Best Way to San Francisco Bay”, meaning the rename is meant to better portray what the airport offers to airlines and passengers.


OAK is owned by the Port of Oakland and they intend for the name change to shine a better light on Oakland as a travel hub for people wanting to visit the Bay Area.




Let's be honest, what name seems more appealing? An airport name with just "Oakland" in it or one that includes the full "San Francisco Bay" detail in addition to the local city?


There has been pushback regarding the airport's name change. David Chiu, San Francisco's City Attorney, has threatened to sue Oakland for the decision. This goes to show that while an airport's name is arguably the most important detail when it comes to marketing strategies, authorities must ensure that everyone agrees to the name.

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Hadi Ahmad
Lifelong aviation enthusiast raised in Central Illinois. 777 is the best plane BTW.

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