The Wild Fight Over San Francisco

SFO - San Francisco

Regular readers know that the currently-named Metropolitan Oakland International Airport is a sponsor of the Friday Cranky Weekly Review. It also was the presenting sponsor of this year’s Cranky Network Awards. So when I saw that the airport was proposing to change its name, I decided not to write about it… until San Francisco threatened to sue over the switch. Now I just can’t stay away. Someone pass the popcorn, please.

Oakland’s idea was simple enough. It said last week that it wants to change its name to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport. This is a mouthful, and let’s be honest… nobody is going to call it that. It will always be Oakland or OAK.

The point, however, is to attract more traffic heading to San Francisco itself. This will help it show up better in web searches, though it doesn’t achieve the holy grail that Ontario somehow achieved when people search for LAX. If you search for SFO, Oakland results do not return. That is a different fight that has nothing to do with the name but would probably be far more impactful.

But Oakland did a lot of research on this and it got its airlines onboard with the shift. Having San Francisco Bay up front will help improve recognition among those people looking to come to San Francisco. So the airport pushed forward, deciding at least for now to keep the logo the same. It just throws in some extra words on the left, still prominently showing OAK most above all.

The reality of the situation is that no traveler in the Bay Area will care about this name change one bit, or at least they shouldn’t. They all know their airports, and know the ones they prefer. This is entirely about people coming into town who aren’t familiar with the region. And they would probably be pleasantly surprised if they landed in Oakland instead of SFO.

See, SFO isn’t in San Francisco. It lies further south of the city, fed by traffic-choked freeways that dead-end in southern parts of San Francisco, dumping into crowded streets. Oakland lies across the bay and actually has its main runway sitting in the bay itself on what I assume is land fill. It does require taking the Bay Bridge over to San Francisco which is always an adventure, usually not in a good way. But both airports are located on BART rapid transit. Depending upon where you’re going in the city, OAK can often be quicker.

OAK was also built in a location that doesn’t see the same impact from fog as SFO. Even if it did, OAK doesn’t have its runways so close together that they become heavily impacted by low clouds. OAK generally runs on time while SFO has more than its share of weather delays that have wreaked havoc on travelers for years.

With that background, you can see how they came up with this name. But you know who doesn’t feel good about it? San Francisco. Almost immediately, the threat of lawsuits began to fly, saying Oakland was infringing on San Francisco International Airport’s trademark.

This seems insane on the surface. After all, the OAK runway literally sits on top of the San Francisco Bay. Geographic names are what they are, and there have been far worse abuses. That being said, my gut reaction is not based in law. And the law… may say otherwise.

The San Francisco Chronicle talked to some experts in this field, and while it sounds like this could go either way, there is a real argument to be made by SFO that this is trademark infringement. After all, San Francisco International Airport is trademarked, and that means that San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport could cause confusion in the marketplace. Maybe.

The article talked about examples in Florida where Orlando Sanford and Orlando Melbourne tried to make a run at using the Orlando name. Sanford has apparently been denied a federal trademark while Melbourne finally gave up and changed its name to Melbourne Orlando after years of litigation.

Some suggested OAK might have more solid legal footing if it could change its names around and put Oakland first to make it more clear. That does not appear to be in the cards as of now. This week the Alameda County Board of Supervisors approved the change with strong backing. And May 9 is when the official sign-off should be given.

Let’s see if San Francisco really wants to litigate this or if it’s just rattling sabers to see what it can get. It seems awfully silly to fight this, but it’s a lot of fun to watch.

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141 comments on “The Wild Fight Over San Francisco

  1. This is all incredibly silly.

    Signed- someone who lives in the Washington Metropolitan area, which has THREE airports named Washington, one of which is in Baltimore (by way of weird city boundaries) and NONE of which are in DC proper…

    1. BWI is in Anne Arundel County, not in Baltimore City, but your point still stands. BWI is much closer to Baltimore (11 miles) than DC (32 miles), but it does sit in the corridor between Baltimore and DC and is more convenient for many in the DC suburbs than IAD or DCA. Its a smart move of OAK to incorporate the SF Bay into it’s name in some way.

      1. For reasons that I am entirely not smart enough to understand, BWI lists Baltimore as their city on the address they post on their own website

        (bwiairport dot com)

        Maybe Cranky can explain that anaomly tho

        1. Mike – I’m sure there’s some weird carve-out that does that. It happens…
          like O’Hare shouldn’t be in Chicago but it is.

          1. O’Hare is in Chicago because it was airport reserve in the 1940s used to manufacture airplanes for World War II. Chicago annexed it in the mid-1950s. In order to annex what is now ORD, the city had to be contiguous to the property. So Richard I, aka, Richard J. Daley, went to the inner suburbs between what is now ORD and the Northwest Side of Chicago and strong-armed the suburbs into allowing the city to annex what is now the Kennedy Expressway.

            Old Man Daley tended to get what he wanted in those days!

          2. Chicago has some very, very strange geography on the far Northwest Side. In addition to the fact that, as said, the airport is part of the city only because the Kennedy was annexed by the city, half of the airport should really be in DuPage County (where I live, although I grew up in the city and it’ll always be home). There’s also the neighborhood situation in Edison Park, Oriole Park, and Norwood Park, much of which lies to the west of Cumberland Avenue (which is generally regarded as the far west border of the city) and whose most famous local son is John Wayne Gacy. And we won’t talk about Schorsch Forest View, which is an actual exclave that really should be part of Norridge. The only way you can tell it’s part of Chicago is the street signs.

            Then again, Chicago’s weird. Try telling people from out of town that, yes, there is a Southeast Side, but, no, there’s no East Side. Yes, Paper Lace, I’m talking to you. That song has now bugged me for five decades.

          3. True in ORD’s case but not BWI – it’s not in Baltimore City, even if through a carve out

          4. Then you have the Dayton Ohio airport that is within Dayton, but it’s a non contiguous part of Dayton. They had to get a special state law passed to do it.

            It’d be kinda sad if the birthplace and home of the Wright Brothers didn’t have its own airport.

        2. Postal address and sub-state political boundaries are different things. SFO’s postal address is San Francisco. The whole city of L.A. portion of San Fernando Valley does not use “Los Angeles”. Same for the southern, harbor portion of the city of L.A. And…Pentagon uses “Washington, DC” even if it’s physically in VA.

          1. And SFO uses SFPD, not San Mateo County Sheriff’s Dept. for policing, even though SFO is in unincorporated San Mateo County.

            1. And last time when someone died at SFO, the body went to San Mateo County’s coroner.

            2. That’s because the airport belongs to the city and county of San Francisco. It is cheaper for them to use their own police than to subcontract it.

          2. Valid. I didn’t actually know that about the Pentagon.

            I had wondered if it had something to do with police jurisdictions, but maybe it’s just branding quirkiness

          3. Then there’s “La Jolla, CA” which is actually a neighborhood of San Diego and not a city at all. But don’t tell them that…

          4. The ‘postal address’ is in San Francisco because it is a mailing address. The airport is in San Mateo County.

          5. Yeah, postal addresses can be nuts. Check out places in suburban Philly like Ardmore, PA, which exists *entirely* as a ZIP code. It spans two counties and parts of one township in each county, but it isn’t all of any township. And the school districts are different from the townships. So there are four different entities: the governmental entities (county and township), the school district, and the post office area / ZIP code / census designated place, all of which overlap but none of which are entirely within each other. And despite it being in densely-populated suburban Philadelphia, there’s no municipal fire department, only several volunteer fire companies (with paid staff) which serve different parts of the township! Got it? ;)

            So indeed, the postal address can have nothing to do with the governmental organization.

          6. Seattle-Tacoma’s mailing address used to be Seattle even though it was never in the City of Seattle. Unincorporated land originally. Now in the City named for the airport – SeaTac.

        3. The city used in an address is determined by USPS, and does not necessarily correspond to actual municipal boundaries.

          SFO also uses a San Francisco address.

        4. Postal addresses do not always match physical locations. Similarly, DTW Airport, which has its own ZIP code, is listed by the USPS as “Detroit” when in fact the airport is 100% in the city of Romulus, MI.

      1. They can probably solve the trademark issue by just using “SF Bay” instead of “San Francisco Bay”. The solution Melbourne used would likely also work for the trademark issue, but not as well from a marketing perspective.

        Side question: is there a code that returns all SF Bay airports on a single search, like NYC or LON do?

        1. Oops, this wasn’t a reply to Bobber’s post, should have been a new post, sorry about that.

          But as long as I’m here, one trivia fact: the official name for Heathrow is just “Heathrow”, it doesn’t have the word “London” in it (although it’s commonly said that way, even some of Wikipedia’s postings say “London Heathrow” and the IATA code is LHR.)

          LHR didn’t like my proposed name change, “Hellmouth International”. I hate that airport.

          (Bonus trivia points to whoever remembers where the term “Hellmouth” comes from…)

        2. CraigTPA – There is not a single metropolitan code for SF and LA, which is odd. I seem to recall in the past some systems supported QLA and QSF but that’s not official. NYC, WAS, and CHI are different animals, but they shouldn’t be.

          1. Airport Name: San Francisco Bay Area – All Airports
            (IATA) Code: QBA

            SABRE training from 1990 flashing back at me!

            Not sure if they still support it – but I definitely used it on SABRE back in the day

            1. Sammy – Ah! I was close, but it doesn’t show in IATA’s official database and Sabre doesn’t return results.

        3. Yerba Buena changed it’s name to San Francisco in 1850 after San Francisco Bay, while Oakland changed it’s name from San Antonio and Brooklyn.

      2. Bobber – Don’t forget London/Manchester, London/Leeds… oh wait, that’s just how BA views the entire country.

        1. Manchester and Leeds are not in BA’s vocabulary but they exist in timetables. Actually do London Airways still serve Leeds? They abandoned Manchester many years ago when the airport finallly rolled over and allowed Ryanair and Easyjet to establish hubs and it now exists only as a spoke from Heathrow and one flight a day in each direction to Gatwick

    2. Yeah, but at least BWI, which isn’t in Baltimore btw, leads with Baltimore in its name.

      This Oakland airport name is nonsense, designed to confuse and draw travellers away from SFO.. EXACTLY like the Orlando Melbourne nonsense..

      This would be like calling BWI Chesapeake Bay BWI.. except there’s no existing airport named Chesapeake Bay

  2. Are the 2 airports really independently run ? There’s no SF Bay authority that could synchronize a bit their relationship ?
    If not, maybe you should suggest its creation to them …

    1. Yep, they’re completely independent. OAK is run by the Port of Oakland, SFO is operated by the City and County of San Francisco, and SJC is run by the City of San Jose.

      Most airports in the US are owned by city or county governments*, so cooperation across those lines is unusual. NYC’s situation only works the way it does because the much-loathed Port Authority of New York and New Jersey existed and all three airports were consolidated under it just as the cargo ports are. Every few years a politician or two gets the idea of separating Newark from JFK and LGA, but it never goes anywhere.

      *Or the occasional cross-county cooperative venture, like Sarasota-Bradenton, which is run by the Sarasota Manatee Aviation Authority, governed equally between the two counties. The county line literally runs through the concession area between gates B1-B6 and B7-B14 if I remember right. IMHO, they missed a great opportunity by not having a winged manatee as the airport logo.

        1. I’m convinced SWF actually doesn’t exist, but that it’s an urban legend like gators in the NYC sewers or people voluntarily watching Piers Morgan on TV.

          The entire time I lived in NYC, I never knew anyone who had used SWF…and I knew two cheap people who, back in the day, had gone to TTN to fly Eastwind to Florida.

          I have to admit the seasonal service to the Faroe Islands is pretty cool, but the airport as a whole just seems to keep gradually losing service – even Frontier gave up. I suspect Breeze will eventually give up too.

          1. The problem with SWF is that it has a “moat” of protected natural areas insulating it from the NYC metro area population centers. Between Bergen County and SWF is ~35 miles of state parks and other protected areas, with minimal population to draw on. It’s similar on the east bank of the Hudson – western Putnam County is almost entirely state parks and other protected land, and northwest Westchester County isn’t very dense either.

            Successful secondary airports tend to have a local catchment area to draw on – often suburban population centers that are closer to the secondary airport than the city’s primary airport. HPN, ISP, and TTN all have this, but SWF does not.

            1. Yep. Spot on.

              Another issue for SWF is that the other three Port airports, EWR, LGA and JFK, do not need to be marketed. Indeed, it’s more that the Port spends time thinking about how to keep airlines out of them.

              And then there’s SWF, which really needs to be marketed, but is part of a huge organization that doesn’t know or care how to market. Giving SWF to the Port was NY State’s way of “filing and forgetting” SWF. SWF will always exist, courtesy of the largesse of the Port, and NYS never has to worry about it again. But… that it’s controlled by the Port means it will also never be what it possibly could be, were it run by an organization that gives a damn.

              At various times, there were similar ideas with TTN. Give it to one of the similar state body that controls the Penn-NJ portion of the Delaware. That would be the kiss of death for it, of course.

            2. I thought SWF was onkly brought under the cartel’s control so they could keep landing fees in house for diversions from the 3 main airports?

      1. Or you also get “Ports” running airports, like the Port of Seattle, which owns and runs Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Thats its own government that overlays multiple other cities and counties.

  3. SFO’s reaction is overblown but I don’t think this is actually going to have any impact. I also think it would be less confusing if SFO was named something like “SF/Millbrae” rather than than just being “San Francisco”.

    I grew up in the bay area and most of my family/friends still live there. OAK/SJC tend to expand to more global reaches when the economy expands and contract to more secondary airports when the economy contracts. Most of the service OAK can consistently support has been intra west coast and Hawai’i traffic – and most of the people flying from those places are familiar enough with the bay area to know which airport they want. With traffic the way it is in the area, the 3 airports are honestly a wash in terms of convenience unless you happen to live right by one of them. For example, my parents are technically closest to OAK, but I haven’t flown out of there in 10 years. The highways from Pleasanton/Dublin/San Ramon navigate around foothills , so that combined with traffic being generally horrendous everywhere means travel time from my parents’ house to any of the airports is comparable.

  4. In a different vain the SF Giants have certain market rights as the primary baseball team in the area & the A’s were granted market rights being in the east bay. When the A’s attempted to move to San Jose, the Giants said no as they claim the south bay as their own.

    1. Giants have territorial rights to the south bay because the A’s under Walter Haas granted those rights to the Giants when they wanted to move there in ~1990; it is not the case that the Giants have rights to the whole area and are merely allowing the A’s to exist in the east bay. Giants have rights to the west and south bay; A’s have rights to the east bay.

    1. Yerba Buena got renamed by Americans after San Francisco Bay in 1850. The first city in the SF Bay Area was the original San Jose, which was on Alameda Creek in what is now a part of Fremont, before San Jose relocated several miles Southwest. The Presidio of San Francisco Bay was a small adobe built to watch the entrance to the port, Mission Dolores was built to convert the indigenous and Yerba Buena was a stopover on the way to other places on the Bay.

  5. Years ago there was an initiative in San Francisco to rename a large sewage treatment plant after a certain US President (not going to say who, as I try to avoid politics), though that proposal appears to have failed.

    If Oakland is not legally permitted rename its airport as it would like, I would suggest that rename its sewage treatment plants, SuperFund toxic waste sites, and similar so that the sites’ names start with “San Francisco Bay”.

    Then again, Oakland may already have a plan to rename a sewage treatment plan after John Fisher, the owner of the Oakland A’s, so the ‘naming rights’ for at least one sewage treatment plant may already be taken. ;-)

  6. Oakland needs to spend its money and time on cleaning up all the dangerous crime that’s engulfed the Airport rather than spending millions on and stupid name change. When Fortune 500 companies are leaving in droves because the crime scene at,to and from the airport resembles something out of New Jack city you have a problem on your hands. Employees at the airport parking lots are leaving cars unlocked and hanging signs in their windows tell the thieves the door are unlocked plz don’t break the windows. Getting a Uber or a Lyft is becoming impossible especially at night because the drivers are refusing to pickup or drop off their because the crime so bad. But hey let’s just change the name instead to fool the travelers with the hopes of driving up ridership.

    1. jason – That is not the airport’s job. The airport is a self-contained entity under the port, and it doesn’t cost much to do a rebrand like this.
      Even the logo doesn’t really change. But the city of Oakland does need to get its act together.

      1. I have to agree with Jason, though it may not be the airport’s responsibility to clean up the area, it’s in their best interest to be actively engaging with city officials to take care of the issues. I live in the Bay Area and refuse to use OAK because of the rampant crime. I will not risk getting carjacked or whatever. This is where the airport should absolutely focus their efforts on. The airport officials are too myopic thinking that just a name change will invite traffic. Take care of the passenger experience within the airport and take care of the passenger’s safety outside and then passengers will come.

        1. Al – That’s just not how airports work in the US. They don’t have jurisdiction over the hell that is Hegenberger leading to the freeway.
          They absolutely can and do talk to the city, but that has nothing to do with a rebranding effort and wouldn’t use the same resources anyway.

          1. “the hell that is Hegenberger leading to the freeway.”

            Good Lord, Cranky. I’m down there like basically on a weekly basis. There’s some shady stuff from time to time, but please don’t feed the trolls :)

            1. But Charles, are you down there at night when the crime is at its peak or during sunlight when the vampires are still at home?

    2. I recently got an Uber at OAK after 11 pm. Didn’t seem to be a problem getting a car. So I question if this a real thing, versus a media-driven narrative. And yes, I’m well aware of the crime in Oakland in general, the only place in the Bay Area where I’ve ever had a car window smashed.

  7. I’m just waiting for our pal Tim to figure out how to make this all about Delta so that he can chime in with his usual blurb about their “industry leading performance”.

    1. Some comment about how Delta’s 6 flights a day to OAK are more strategic and successful than Southwest’s?

  8. This is annoying on Oaklands part. Why confuse people? I love near OAK and am happy to fly in there, don’t need everyone who ever comes into town getting confused.

    1. The status quo is confusing, and that flows entirely to SFO’s benefit. Renaming OAK might add some additional confusion, but it will presumably also add clarity for people who realize that OAK is an airport that might actually be more convenient for their travel plans.

  9. Just a technicality here, cranky, but I think you meant to say that OAK’s runway is built on land fill, not landfill. The latter is a garbage dump that is covered when full. The former is using material like rocks and soil to build up “land” in a water body to build on.

    1. JB – Ha, well,… it is Oakland so hard to know for sure if it’s landfill or land fill. ;) But I fixed it. Thanks.

      1. Today I learned there is a difference between landfill and land fill. In fact I thought the corrected, two word version was a typo!

  10. There are some insightful comments in this thread. That would be great to have an umbrella search for SFO OAK SJC SMF. However, “it’s the ticket prices stupid”! SFO wins hands down.

    1. I don’t think SMF should be included. Sacramento is a separate metro area, and quite far from every part of the Bat Area except the East Bay.

        1. Yessssssssss! STS forever! Someday I’ll manage to find an itinerary to fly there that makes sense. But I’ve tried for a while to no avail…

          1. That got me thinking. How many cities are there with two significant commercial airports both within the city limits? The only ones I can think of off the top of my head are Chicago, New York, Tokyo, and Beijing, and Beijing fudged it worse than Chicago did back in the day.

        2. Snoopy Airport, surely. If Chicago can name its main airport after a WWII fighter ace, certainly Sonoma can name theirs after a WWI fighter ace.

  11. The first place that the idea of patents, copyrights and trademarks was ever put forward as law was in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The applicable section reads, “The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries”

    Determining who owns a patent, trademark or copyright can be tricky. American sued Delta (the world’s only PERFECT airline, according to one person who regularly posts here) over the use of the term “Flagship.” But one of the more interesting suits was over the use of the name “Northern Pacific.” The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway successfully sued to stop the use of its trademark even though the railroad that bore that name hadn’t existed for decades. Yet, in a similar situation, Western Pacific Airlines apparently wasn’t sued over the use of that old railroad’s name – which was a part of the route of the original California Zephyr.

    1. I’d guess that somewhere deep in its corporate structure, BNSF still has a legal entity called “Northern Pacific” to maintain their hold on the name, in the same way US named renamed Jetstream International “PSA Airlines” to maintain their hold on the PSA name. I’d guess that whoever last held the rights to “Western Pacific” allowed them to lapse – trademarks have to be used to remain in force. IIRC, the maximum dormancy time allowed is 5 years in most cases, then they become abandoned and open for use.

      Potential consume confusion cases are really common: French Bee was originally French Blue, but had to change their name when they started service to the US, as JetBlue objected to their name when they filed for a foreign carrier permit. (I think it was an improvement myself, French Bee has a nice touch of silliness to it.)

      1. You don’t need to have a legal company named to keep a trademark. Tide is a trademark of Proctor and Gamble, but pretty sure its not its own company.

        Trademarks do have to be used to keep them in force, but the old US strategy of renaming the regionals to the names of the old carriers doesn’t have to be done. You could for instance do what AW/US did and repaint planes into that livery, or what Chevron and a few other gasoline companies do and have “Standard” stations to keep their Standard Oil trademarks in use.

      2. As for BNSF, I’m guessing they just have “Northern Pacific” painted on a locomotive or two, and that covers using the name in commerce.

    2. Trademarks have to be registered, there is a central database to look them up, and Trademark paralegals and lawyers are good at it, and these need to be renewed, so there will be upto date contact information.

      Patents at least have to be registered, but I’m not sure if the current owner is added onto the patent, I tend to think it isn’t.

      Copyrights don’t need to be registered, although you do need to deposit a copy with the Library of Congress if to sue to enforce it. But many of the big publishers just always deposit a copy with the Library of Congress.

      So its not really that tricky.

  12. I’ve said this previously, but I’d like to say it again in the hopes that people will adopt it. Every time you engage a certain poster on this site by using his name or even just referring to Delta as “perfect,” you only give more power to his comments. I do not mention him or respond to him. I do moderate him to ensure there are no problematic remarks as have been posted in the past. If you do take issue with his comments, then your best weapon is to just ignore and move on. It makes the comment section here much better if you do that.

    1. When you’ve become such a predictable troll that even the author of the blog has developed a strategy for dealing with you…

    2. Honestly I think he sometimes has some pretty insightful comments. They’re obviously very skewed in a specific direction, but I still appreciate that he takes the time to comment here so frequently. I appreciate the desire for comment threads not to develop into recurring flame wars over an (often-unrelated) airline, but let’s make sure that we don’t cross a line into being mean to an apparently-sincere member of our quirky little community here.

  13. I remember the old paper flight schedule that OAK used to print back in the early 1990s. It boasted a connecting flight to HKG on UA! That was UA OAK-LAX followed by UA805 LAX-HKG (with one stop and a plane change)! (Guess where that one stop was?)

  14. A small detail, but SFO is technically part of the City and County of San Francisco due to a quirk in California law that doesn’t require cities to be contiguous. (Illinois does, and Chicago made ORD part of the city by owning the thread of the Kennedy Expressway that connects the land the airport is on to the rest of Chicago.) In fact, there’s a small area of San Francisco smack in the middle of Yosemite where the Ahwahnee Hotel is.

    1. It is “part” of the City and County of SF in that SF owns and operates it but it is not within city limits, and neither is any land in Yosemite. You can look at any map of city limits and you won’t find SFO inside them.

    2. The airport thinks it’s in unincorporated San Mateo County.

      “San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is owned and operated by the City and is the principal commercial service airport for the San Francisco Bay Area. The Airport is located 14 miles south of downtown San Francisco in an unincorporated area of San Mateo County between the Bayshore Freeway (U.S. Highway 101) and the San Francisco Bay.”

      But as I mentioned in another comment earlier, it’s being policed by SFPD, so definitely some weird stuff going on. I don’t recall if SFO businesses charge San Mateo or SF City/County sales tax rates, but this article seems to indicate that San Mateo can tax SFO businesses.


    3. Owning some property doesn’t mean it’s part of your political subdivision. SFO is in unincorporated SM County. CCSF owns SFO and extends labor laws and SFPD there, but SFO is not part of CCSF, nor is any Hetch property. BIH, operated by Inyo County, is not part of the city or county of L.A. even if a lot of Owens Valley, and in and around the city of Palmdale, is owned by the city of L.A.

    4. The airport thinks it’s in unincorporated San Mateo County.

      “San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is owned and operated by the City and is the principal commercial service airport for the San Francisco Bay Area. The Airport is located 14 miles south of downtown San Francisco in an unincorporated area of San Mateo County between the Bayshore Freeway (U.S. Highway 101) and the San Francisco Bay.”

      But as I mentioned in another comment earlier, it’s being policed by SFPD, so definitely some weird stuff going on. I don’t recall if SFO businesses charge San Mateo or SF City/County sales tax rates, but this article seems to indicate that San Mateo can tax SFO businesses.


      (apologies if this is a dupe… my first attempt to post this didn’t seem to go through)

    5. I don’t think it’s part of the City and County. The land is owned by the City and County of San Francisco, but is within the jurisdiction of San Mateo County.

      California does require cities to be contiguous, although the connection can be over water (as with San Diego).

      1. So who owns the bay? Could the city buy a sliver of the bay to connect the city to the airport a la the city of Los Angeles with the Port and LAX

        1. Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Marin, Conta Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco says:

          Nine different counties own portions of the San Francisco Bay.

        2. No one “owns” the bay, but different counties have jurisdiction over parts of the bay.

          San Ysidro is actually connected to the rest of the city of San Diego through a narrow strip of the San Diego Bay.

    6. That is actually not true. All cities in California are contiguous, except where it is separated by federal or international waters.

      SFO is NOT in San Francisco, but has an SF mailing address because the USPS put a post office at the airport and they assign addresses by zip code without regard to the lines that cities or states draw on a map. There are houses in California which have Verdi, Nevada mailing addresses because the mail is delivered from that post office. In the East Bay, zip codes in Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, Piedmont, Emeryville, Hayward, San Leandro, etc do not coincide with the city boundaries.

  15. It’s all about location, location, location – just like everything else in real estate.
    SFO is closest to the largest travel market in N. California; renaming another airport won’t change that.
    Given that the Bay is called San Francisco, it is hard to believe any court could find in SFO’s favor.
    If MLB can get by with putting Orlando in its name miles from their larger neighbor’s city limits, you would think a runway that is more “in the bay” that SFO’s should qualify.

    And thanks for the reminder, CF, for people just to post what they want to say and quit worrying about what someone else might or might not think, let alone write.
    I am shocked – and in awe at the same time – at what preoccupies some people. and even more so that they write what they do.

    1. It is definitely debatable whether SFO is “closest to the largest travel market” in northern California, as discussed in the post. It is slightly closer to SF proper, but OAK is more centrally located for the region and closer for a larger population than SFO.

      1. I think the largest travel market in Northern CA includes the peninsula/Silicon Valley. Many business travelers don’t head to San Francisco proper.

    1. Not any more “geographically challenged” than for tourists who fly to “San Francisco” today and find out they’re actually in San Mateo County. See map in original post. SFO is only slightly closer to San Francisco than OAK.

      1. I think you missed the point a bit. OAK seems to think that people don’t fly to Oakland because they don’t know it’s convenient or even near San Francisco. I don’t think the same can be said about San Francisco/San Mateo.

  16. I don’t think there’s any (US) airport name more egregious or misleading than “Chicago Rockford International” (RFD). I’d be very upset to land there and find out you’re actually 90 miles from downtown Chicago. This OAK thing doesn’t seem too different than what BWI or EWR do, the airport is close enough to San Fransisco that I don’t think it’s a big deal. Guess we’ll see how it turns out.

      1. Yeah,, that one drives me crazy. I was stationed in Frankfurt for three years while I was in the Army, and that one makes no geographic sense. Ironically, I also lived in Rockford for a year, so I’m one badly-positioned airport away from being a full-fledged expert on the subject.

      2. Ryanair are experts at making other airports destinations for major cities. You have Charleroi (Brussels) Weeze (Dusseldorf) Beauvais (Paris)

    1. And, again, to be redundant, I often fly into LGA for the better ticket prices, even though, I’m enroute to New Jersey (EWR).

  17. I think the whole thing is stupid.

    Back when timetables used to be printed, some international carriers did fly to Oakland instead of SFO and would print ‘San Francisco/Oakland International Airport’ or say ‘San Francisco’s Oakland International Airport’.

    Would seem the issue is OAK needs to get more airlines to fly to Oakland which is more centrally located to most of the surrounding area and not worry about it’s name.

    Like was already said, how many people ask to fly to George Bush International Airport or Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport which not everyone would know unless they asked for Houston or Washington DC and went searching from there. 

    1. I suspect that the main motivation is to make sure OAK shows up in the suggested autocompletions on travel search engines when customers type “san francisco”. It’s hard to teach consumers to include a new airport in their search, and this is a fairly low-cost way to try.

  18. Melbourne, FL airport is about as much a part of Orlando as Philadelphia is to Newark. I’m not sure that’s a good comparison and it’s reasonable that the idea of Orlando-Melbourne was shot down. Sanford, however, is another story.

    At day’s end, anyone with a third-grader’s knowledge of geography knows Oakland is NOT San Francisco. You can get to San Francisco from OAK, if you want to ride the BART or spend hours sitting at the entrance to one of the San Francisco Bay crossings. Especially in rush hour. What next? Will Sacramento become San Francisco/Sacramento International Airport?

    I don’t care what they call themselves, Oakland always will be second to SFO.

  19. In other west coast aviation news – including as tenants of OAK – several business news sources are reporting that the DOJ is preparing to challenge the AS/HA merger.

  20. I still think SFO and OAK should just join forces and connect to each other via high speed ferry or a second transbay (high speed) tube. :)

  21. I like how it describes the Peninsula freeways as traffic-choked, as opposed to the East Bay freeways and the Bay Bridge, which are TOTALLY FREE OF ALL TRAFFIC PROBLEMS ?

    1. Closer than Rockford. If Rockford wants to name themselves Chicago Rockford, then by all rights MKE should be renamed Chicago Milwaukee Mitchell Field.

  22. Oakland sucks let’s be honest. Even people living in Oakland wish they lived in San Francisco just they can’t because it’s too expensive. None of my friends want to go to Oak airport and we would all rather pay a premium in airfare to depart and arrive in SFO. My uber fare is probably 20 dollars more from SFO vs OAK but it’s worth it. It’s clear the name change is to confuse and befuddle tourists into going into Oakland when landing in the peninsula is the preferred option. Paint a rosy picture of Oak but we all know the truth of the matter.

    1. How is it worth it? If you take BART (which is usually the same amount of time as Uber), OAK is about 10 minutes further than SFO, assuming you’re going to the downtown area.

    2. Why does it matter if you land on the peninsula? If you’re trying to get to downtown SF, using BART Oakland only takes about 10 minutes more than SFO.

  23. Oakland airport has long tried to get the message out that it’s the best located Bay area airport.

    It’s closest to the most populous part of the region– the East Bay (2.7M in Alameda and Contra Costa counties) and equidistant from downtown SF as SFO. It also began its history way back when as the principal airport for San Francisco.

    However, SFO is a very convenient airport, even for those in the East Bay. SFO has easy BART connections from inside the airport straight to East Bay stops on the yellow line. Yes, OAK now has a BART shuttle, but it’s a bit of a hassle to use, requiring multiple train changes just to even get to East Berkeley. Also, if I’m renting a car, it’s much easier from SFO than OAK. Just take the train from the concourse to the garage, take the elevator down, and I’m at my vehicle. And it’s pretty easy peasy to get from there to the freeway across the bridge to the East Bay.

    Perhaps Oakland should just use “Bay Area Oakland Intl Airport.” After all, I hear ‘Bay Area’ much more often as a reference to the area than ‘San Francisco Bay.’

    1. > Yes, OAK now has a BART shuttle, but it’s a bit of a hassle to use, requiring multiple train changes just to even get to East Berkeley.

      It should just be one train change, right? Switch from the airport shuttle to the orange line at Coliseum, and then orange line takes you all the way to Berkeley.

      1. The Orange line goes up Shattuck to downtown then up to Richmond. No thank you. The Yellow line goes up to College and through the hills. Much safer with bag in tow.
        Regardless, I really don’t want to hang around Coliseum waiting for a train, especially late at night when I usually arrive.

  24. I can see what Oakland is trying to do here, but the proposed name is dumb. It’s a mouthful and no one is going to use it. How about “Oakland – SF Bay Airport” or something like that. And yes, San Francisco filed suit today to block the name change, so that’s not just conjecture. I doubt this goes forward as planned.

    1. I am actually sorta of surprised that the Port Commission didn’t just go for broke and use “San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport in Silicon Valley” That would have had the added benefit of also irritating the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport Commission. (I always thought it was a little tasteless to rename your airport (2001) for a then sitting DOT Secretary, it seems too desperate for a handout.) But having lived in the region most of my life, I can just enjoy that this sort of nonsense is par for the course around here.

        1. To be clear I wasn’t objecting to the name per se, just the timing of when the renamed the airport. Would have made sense after he had retired from public service or after his passing in 2022. But renaming it in 2001 a few months after he had been names DOT Secretary was too soon in my opinion.

  25. Late comment, but I’ll stick with a simple point: this new (proposed) name is too long and convoluted to be effective. Nobody will call OAK this, and it will be a ridiculous waste of money. Mark my words on this. Bad marketing is bad marketing and this is a fine example. If the fact that OAK isn’t showing up in searches for “San Francisco” (which it should), then fight that battle with the parties involved. As Cranky said above, that’s a far more effective way of dealing with this.

    In spite of having to access OAK via a Mad Max-level apocalyptical neighborhood, it’s a darn good airport and easier to deal with than SFO. It has a lot of advantages, depending on where you need to be. Use it’s strengths to sell it.

    1. It depends on where you live or where you’re going. For anyone in the East and North Bay (except for maybe some of Fremont), Oakland is the best option.

      Oakland has the worst freeway connection of the Bay Area Airports. 98th and Hegenberger aren’t great. SFO is directly connected to 101. San Jose has a single traffic light and then you’re on 87, which is close to both 101 and 280.

  26. I don’t see how this will change the fortunes of Oakland’s airport. They city has a Major League Baseball team (for now) and it has had an NFL team a couple times too. IMO, the main reason Oakland doesn’t have the long haul flights is that United has a hub at SFO and long haul low cost airlines haven’t been too successful, which would have benefited Oakland.

    Also, Oakland only has one runway used by commercial flights. SFO has four even though they are poorly spaced and cross each other. Even San Jose has two parallel runways for commercial flights.

    I live about five miles away from SJC and going to OAK requires a trip up 880, which just sucks to drive on. Going to SFO means driving 280, which is pleasant.

    I don’t see changing the name doing anything other than making some politicians happy.

  27. Could you please post a map showing where both 101 and 280 end in the southern part of San Francisco?

    I think that the bigger concern over this renaming is when passengers who booked a connecting flight (possibly international) on a different airline discover that they are on the wrong side of the Bay. Just reading blogs and sites such as TripAdvisor shows how many unexperienced flyers are acting as their own travel agents with some terrible results. It is about time for another story of a passenger landing in the wrong San Jose.

  28. As an Oakland resident, I have no idea why Metropolitan Oakland International Airport on San Francisco Bay doesn’t work. The runways are on landfill that otherwise would be part of the bay and the bay is called San Francisco Bay. What could go wrong! And in another 50 or so years with sea level rise the airport will be under San Francisco Bay if we are not careful

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