The Burbank Hollywood Airport. The Hollywood Burbank Airport. The Burbank Los Angeles Airport. Those are three of the scintillating new names suggested for the place everyone calls (and will probably continue to call) Burbank airport. What's next? The Hollywood Burbank Airport of Los Angeles? The Bob Hope Hollywood Burbank Airport of Los Angeles?
At the moment (and since 2003), the airport is officially named the Bob Hope Airport. But officials are contemplating a proposal from a branding firm to rename it to make it clearer to tourists that Burbank isn't some far flung burg. Universal Studios, for example, is practically spitting distance from the runway.
Angelenos and frequent Southern California visitors know this, of course. In fact, Burbank airport is about the same distance to downtown L.A. as LAX is — and is often easier to get to, given the regular state of traffic on the 405 and the 110. If tourists don't know that, well, is that really so bad?
Sure, commercial passenger traffic went off a cliff along with the U.S. economy after an all-time high of 5.9 million in 2007. But that had nothing to do with the name, and besides, things are looking up. After bottoming out at 3.8 million passengers, traffic at the airport finally picked up last year by 100,000.
The planned upgrade of the aging terminal building will probably help attract more passengers. It's more than 85 years old and, let's be honest, it looks its age. Burbank residents are expected to vote in November on a plan to build a bigger and safer replacement. The expanded dining and shopping options will be extra welcome to travelers when their planes are delayed or canceled.
But we can't help feeling a little nervous and nostalgic as the upgrade approaches. Perhaps the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority (speaking of unwieldy names) would be wise not to go too wild trying to remake this gem of a facility into something that could be — gasp — mistaken for that other airport: Los Angeles International Airport. Locals choose to fly in and out of Burbank precisely because it is not LAX.
Burbank airport's manageable size, charm and old-school tarmac-boarding makes it a relative joy to use. At what other major urban airport can you pull up to the curb less than an hour before your flight, drop your keys with a valet, stroll through the security line, grab a Peet's coffee and be on your plane with time to spare?
Burbank's mayor, Bob Frutos, said some of his city's residents don't want “Los Angeles” tacked on to the airport's name. Understandable, especially given the mockery (and legal challenge) after Arte Moreno saddled his Orange County-based baseball team with a name only a marketing firm could love: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Whatever you call it, Burbank airport is no joke to loyal locals. Its name shouldn't be one either.