What’s in a Name?

Paul Bowers

Here we go again. As this issue went to press, name changes for two more airports were being discussed in the news. There was an external push by politicians to rename Washington Dulles International to Donald J. Trump International, and an internal effort to change Metropolitan Oakland International to San Francisco Bay Oakland International.


I’m all for improving our airports. But do new names necessarily make them better? Typically not. Naming airports after politicians and other public figures is a particularly pointless pursuit. It doesn’t give travelers a sense of where an airport is located. And simply adding the location can make names unnecessarily long. Plus, airports are businesses, and a politician’s name does nothing to increase traffic or other business.

Naming an airport after its location is the best strategy I can think of. However, when multiple airports reference the same location, it definitely has the potential to create confusion. While it’s too late for the New York, Chicago and Houstons of the world, I officially propose that moving forward, we ban changes that:

  1. Name an airport after a person—even if the location is also included.
  2. Use a geographic descriptor that is already used by another airport—dibs should still mean something.
  3. Create long, cumbersome names—let’s cap it around 30 letters.

Enough said. Can we move on to more pressing topics, like projects that improve safety, security and vital infrastructure?
For that, keep reading here.


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