Oakland International Airport to add San Francisco Bay to name -- legal war looms

George Avalos, The Mercury News on

Published in Business News

OAKLAND, California — Despite an uproar from politicians and tourism executives, officials who oversee Oakland International Airport voted Thursday to add “San Francisco Bay” to the transit hub’s name.

The change is meant to spur economic growth in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and create a higher profile for the least busy of the Bay Area’s three major airports. But the controversial move may also unleash a legal war.

The Oakland Board of Port Commissioners voted unanimously, 7-0, to approve the name change to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport.

“We are going all-in with Oakland,” Barbara Leslie, president of the port’s board, said before voting for the new moniker. “We want to keep money in the local economy.”

Oakland Airport officials say they are concerned that many people who want to travel to the Bay Area are flying into San Francisco International Airport — which actually is located in San Mateo County and not its namesake city to the north — when it would be more convenient to travel to the East Bay airport. Like SFO to the west, OAK abuts the San Francisco Bay.

“The lack of geographic awareness by inbound passengers has created challenges for our airport partners,” said Craig Simon, Oakland’s acting director of aviation. “This is not just about marketing. This is about the lack of awareness about Oakland.”


OAK officials believe the airport’s lower profile has made it tougher for the travel hub to retain routes it attracts. From July 2008 to March 2024, Oakland added 54 new routes. Of these, 39 were lost.

“For every additional route, we add $10 million to our local economy,” said Andreas Cluver, a port board commissioner.

But San Francisco International Airport officials have expressed dismay about the name change — and some San Francisco officials have threatened a lawsuit to block the move.

“We believe this new name will ultimately be misleading to passengers,” Doug Yakel, a spokesman for San Francisco International Airport, said in a comment to the board prior to the vote. “We have an obligation to serve the passengers using our airports by reducing the sources of stress and confusion.”


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