Oakland fires again at SFO as battle heats up over airport identify change

Jetliners operate at Oakland International Airport, September 2023.

OAKLAND — The warfare over plans by Oakland International Airport to incorporate San Francisco Bay into its name widened on Wednesday after the East Bay aviation hub drafted travel leaders to take up its cause.

San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport is the proposed new name of the East Bay air travel hub — which, according to a post on the Airport Parking Shop website, would approach the length of the current longest airport name, Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan palace Complex, an airport in Dubai.

The new name proposed for Oakland International Airport prompted San Francisco International Airport officials to object, saying the suggested moniker would create confusion.

“We are deeply concerned about the potential for customer confusion and disservice that could result from this proposed renaming,” said Ivar Satero, director of San Francisco International Airport.

But on Wednesday, it became clear that the Oakland airport was determined to adhere to its plan to navigate its way to a new name and identity.

“No one owns the title to the San Francisco Bay,” said Craig Simon, the Port of Oakland’s aviation director.

OAK also made it clear that the relentless and ubiquitous influence of the internet and the analytics that the World Wide Web has unleashed are playing huge roles in the travel complex’s plans.

“This change will increase online search visibility for Oakland International Airport and in turn, bring more visitors to Oakland,” said Peter Gamez, chief executive officer with Visit Oakland.

The Port of Oakland is slated to decide on the name change this month.

The skirmish over the Oakland airport moniker change has broken out at a time when all three of the Bay Area’s major airports are struggling to zoom to the heights they all enjoyed in 2019.

The gap between the current passenger flight activity and what it was in 2019 remains considerable. This is how the three main Bay Area aviation hubs stack up to their pre-COVID peaks:

— San Francisco International Airport’s passenger activity total for 2023 was 12.7% below the airport’s activity in 2019.

— Oakland International Airport last year was 16% below its pre-COVID passenger total in 2019.

— San Jose International Airport passenger activity in 2023 was 22.7% below its 2019 total.

These numbers are bleak and demonstrate that the path to recovery remains a potentially bumpy ride.

On the other hand, the passenger flight activity statistics showed gains in altitude for all three of the Bay Area’s primary airports

Here’s how the Bay Area’s three main airports fared during 2023 compared with 2022:

— San Francisco International Airport handled slightly fewer than 50.2 million passengers in 2023, up 18.7% from 2022.

— Oakland International Airport handled 11.24 million passengers last year, up 0.8% from 2022.

— San Jose International Airport handled 12.1 million passengers in 2023, up 6.8% from the prior year.

The East Bay aviation center’s officials believe the airport has plenty of untapped potential if it can create a better and updated identity.

Oakland International Airport is the closest airport to 58.5% of the Bay Area’s population, officials with the East Bay aviation hub claimed.

“This is not about the City and County of San Francisco, or San Mateo County, but about our region and creating jobs in Oakland and throughout the East Bay,” Simon said.

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