Oakland officials vote to rename airport despite San Francisco threatening to sue

Travelers walk through Oakland International Airport
Travelers walk through Oakland International Airport. The Board of Commissioners for the Port of Oakland voted to proceed with a plan to change the airport’s name to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport.
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners unanimously voted this week to change the name of Oakland International Airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport, infuriating San Francisco officials who promised to sue over the decision.

The name change will be finalized if approved in a second vote May 9.

“I’m very pleased with today’s unanimous board approval, especially as a proud Oaklander myself who wants to enhance economic activity and local jobs for Oakland,” Danny Wan, executive director of the Port of Oakland, said in a statement.


Port of Oakland officials say the change is necessary to sustain the airport’s 30,000 direct jobs and $1.6-billion economic impact in the region. Under the proposed rebranding, the airport code, OAK, will not be changed.

The move has angered San Francisco leaders, who say it will confuse travelers. Before the vote, San Francisco City Atty. David Chiu wrote to the Port of Oakland, promising to sue if the change was approved. The city of San Francisco, he wrote, “has strong legal claims ... for trademark infringement that we intend to bring in court against the Port of Oakland.”

The San Francisco airport, which has been operating since 1927, has been known by its moniker for almost the entirety of its existence, Chiu noted.

“The names ‘San Francisco Airport’ and ‘San Francisco International Airport’ are famous and highly recognizable among consumers in connection with the airport services that only SFO provides,” Chiu wrote.

“While the proposed new name is very likely to cause confusion and mistakes broadly, the problem will be particularly acute for an audience of international travelers who may not speak or read English,” he added. “Those international travelers comprise an essential part of SFO’s consumer base.”

San Francisco International Airport Director Ivar C. Satero said the airport would support a lawsuit.


San Francisco Mayor London Breed asked Oakland officials to “follow a similar model to SFO” and improve its airport services to increase revenue rather than changing its name.

Kaley Skantz, a spokeswoman for Oakland International Airport, said attempts to expand services over the years have not been successful because of “the lack of geographic awareness among inbound travelers.”

She pointed to a study by the Port of Oakland, which found that 30% of domestic travelers did not realize how close the airport was to other Bay Area cities such as San Francisco, which is only 18 miles west by car.

“Flights to OAK haven’t performed as well as they could,” Skatnz said. Between July 2008 and March 2024, the airport attempted to add 54 new routes, she said, but 39 have been eliminated. In addition, six preexisting routes were canceled because they did not have enough passengers.

Oakland officials hope the name change will boost recognition of the airport’s location in the Bay Area. In 2016, Bob Hope Airport rebranded as Hollywood Burbank Airport and reported a subsequent 19% increase in flights during 2018 to 2019, though it’s not clear if the name change alone resulted in the growth.

The Port of Oakland began surveying residents of Oakland and the surrounding East Bay area last fall, receiving results this month that showed general support for an airport rebrand.


The rebrand would cost about $150,000, but the change would be self-funded by the Port of Oakland without taxpayer dollars, port officials said.

Southwest and Spirit are two major airlines that have endorsed the change. Jennifer Bridie, senior vice president of marketing for Southwest, voiced support for “contemporary naming” that has “a newfound regional draw and instantly gains even more visibility among those around the world shopping for air travel to the Bay Area.”

Mary Richardson, an attorney for the Port of Oakland, said officials are doing all they can to ensure clarity for prospective visitors to the Bay Area.

“SFO cannot lay claim to the geographically descriptive term ‘San Francisco,’ let alone claim exclusive rights to the San Francisco Bay,” she said in a statement.