Salt Lake City is spending $3.6 billion to rebuild its international airport, so it is less than thrilled that Ogden may hijack its name for its own airport.
Utah’s seventh largest city is proposing to rename its airport the “Ogden-Salt Lake Regional Airport” to attract more airlines there.
Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski is protesting, prompting the Ogden City Council to at least temporarily postpone a final vote that it had scheduled for Tuesday.
“Given the beautiful new airport that Salt Lake City is building, we’re not surprised that other communities want to be associated with it,” said Biskupski’s spokesman, Matthew Rojas.
“We, unfortunately, feel this proposed name change could cause some passenger confusion,” he said. Rojas added that Biskupski’s office had not heard about Ogden’s plans until contacted by The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday, and then called Ogden to raise concerns.
Ogden City Council Chairman Rich Hyer said the city has been discussing the renaming in public meetings since March, and had scheduled a final vote for Tuesday. He said the city administration asked that it be pulled to allow discussion about Biskupski’s objections, so he is unsure when a vote may now occur.
“We’re not trying to be Salt Lake City’s airport,” Hyer said, but it is trying to let out-of-state people better understand where it is. “We’re trying to make it a little easier to find us. If you’re from somewhere in Texas, you don’t know where Ogden is.”
Actually, he said Ogden isn’t trying to use Salt Lake City’s name at all.
“It’s not designed to be Salt Lake City, just Salt Lake — the lake, not the city,” he said. Hyer adds that his council seems to be supportive of the proposal that came from the city’s administration.
Tom Christopulos, Ogden’s director of community and economic development, said the proposal is designed to possibly attract more commercial airlines to Ogden.
The name change would “help us in our recruiting,” and may be a factor in some airlines choosing to go there, he said. “That’s probably the reason Salt Lake is opposed to it.”
Christopulos said the name change could attract more start-up airlines, secondary airlines and others “who may not be able to continually afford the gate fees” at Salt Lake City International Airport.
“This is not unprecedented,” he said, adding that several smaller airports nationally have added the names of nearby large cities to help them attract attention and business.
Examples include airports in Rockford, Ill., 86 miles from Chicago, called Chicago Rockford International Airport; Manchester, N.H., 53 miles from Boston, called Manchester-Boston Regional Airport; and Baltimore, Md., 32 miles from Washington, D.C., called Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
The Ogden-Hinckley airport is 38 miles from Salt Lake City International Airport.
“Ogden is a beautiful destination itself,” Rojas said on behalf of Biskupski. “Using the airport to help brand it as a destination is an opportunity that really should be taken advantage of” without using Salt Lake City’s name.
Christopulos said the proposed name change, “is a way, quite honestly, to get our state Legislature to start thinking of airlines as regional transportation, instead of centralized air transport.”
He added, “We are getting to the point that we have such congested travel” on Wasatch Front highways “that it would be good to start looking at secondary airports” such as Ogden and Provo to drop air passengers closer to their final destinations. Cities in those two cities have some airline service, but need more.
“It’s an economic engine” for those smaller cities, too, he said. Christopulos adds the name change isn’t an overall solution, “but it’s just an idea we think will help.”