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Oakland International Airport Adds “San Francisco Bay” to Its Name Despite Legal Challenge

Metropolitan Oakland International is now called San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport

by Fergus Cole

May 14, 2024

Photo: Courtesy of Oakland International Airport

Oakland International Airport has officially changed its name to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport (OAK) after a unanimous vote from city officials.

This decision was made despite facing a legal challenge from the neighboring city of San Francisco. The airport was previously named Metropolitan Oakland International Airport, but the Port of Oakland’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in April to adopt the new name, which includes the title ‘San Francisco Bay.’

This change has caused some controversy with the neighboring city across the Bay.

Photo: Courtesy of Oakland International Airport

According to city officials, the name change will help to attract more visitors to the airport and increase the demand for domestic and international flights. They claim that many outsiders are unaware of Oakland’s proximity to San Francisco and thus don’t consider the airport an option when visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, with the vast majority of traffic going through San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

“Our Board came to these discussions with a shared love of Oakland and a desire to see our city and airport thrive,” said Barbara Leslie, President of the Oakland Board of Port Commissioners. “Since our initial vote, the Port has met with dozens of community leaders and stakeholders and heard their concerns. We are moving forward with a commitment to honoring our past while building a stronger, more inclusive future.”

Lawsuit Against the Renaming

However, following the Port of Oakland’s controversial decision, a lawsuit was filed a week later to block the change. They believe that the name change will cause widespread confusion among travelers and harm the travel industry in the area.

The City of San Francisco had previously asked Oakland officials to reconsider and work together to find a solution for both parties. However, after Oakland decided to proceed with the change, the City of San Francisco felt it had no choice but to pursue the lawsuit.

Photo: Courtesy of Oakland International Airport

“We had hoped that Oakland would come to its senses, but their refusal to collaborate on an acceptable alternative name leaves us no choice but to file a lawsuit to protect SFO’s trademark,” said David Chiu, City Attorney of San Francisco.

“This new name will cause confusion and chaos for travelers, which will damage the travel industry for the entire region. We are already seeing at least one airline use the new name, indicating that SFO has already suffered economic harm. We want to see the entire Bay Area thrive as a tourist destination and expand our offerings to visitors, but the renaming is not a legal or practical way to go about it.”

Ivar C. Satero, Airport Director at SFO, added: “After nearly a century of service, the San Francisco International Airport is an established brand that is instantly recognizable to travelers around the world. The proposed renaming of Oakland International Airport will have a detrimental impact on the passenger experience, creating confusion and frustration for travelers, especially those from foreign markets.”

While SFO’s exasperation with OAK using ‘San Francisco’ in its name is understandable, it’s yet to be seen whether its lawsuit has any legal standing. While it’s true that SFO has used ‘San Francisco’ in its name for almost 100 years, and the airport is owned and operated by the city of San Francisco, the airport isn’t located in the city but around 14 miles south in San Mateo County.

“The convenience and ease of traveling through OAK won’t change with our name,” said Craig Simon, Interim Director of Aviation at the Port of Oakland. “OAK is the closest major airport to 58 percent of the Bay Area population. The combined population of the counties closest to OAK is 4.1 million compared with 1.5 million in San Francisco and San Mateo counties. The designation will let the world know who we serve.”