Bradley International Airport

Should an airport be named for a city or a celebrity?

City or celebrity? Branding goals fuel airport name changes

Louisville, Kentucky is well known for bourbon, the Kentucky Derby and Louisville Slugger baseball bats.

It’s also the city the late, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali called home.

In his honor, Louisville International Airport (SDF) was recently renamed Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport and a new logo honoring The Champ and his famous praise, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” was adopted.

In addition to honoring a native son, the airport name change is expected bring economic benefits to Louisville and both built on and boost Ali-related tourism to the city.

“Even three years after our city’s most famous son’s passing, Louisville continues to see people coming from across the globe to discover and trace Ali’s legacy,” Karen Williams, President and CEO of Louisville Tourism said in a statement, “The airport rebranding supports current marketing efforts to engage in Ali’s ‘Footsteps of Greatness’ as a reason to inspire visitation to Louisville.”

Location, Location, Location

While Louisville added the name of a local icon to its airport’s name, other airports are moving away from celebrity names in favor of stronger geographic branding.

In 2016, the Allegheny County Airport Authority declined to change the name of Pittsburgh International Airport to the Fred Rogers International Airport.

 An online petition seeking to honor the late star of the locally produced “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” PBS TV program was signed by more than 15,000 supporters. But airport representatives said vacation planners were more likely to search online for “Pittsburgh Airport” than for “Fred Rogers.”

In southern California, regional Bob Hope Airport (BUR) is now Hollywood Burbank Airport.

The switch came in 2017 after airport officials realized that while the general public knew that the late Bob Hope was a comedian, few outside the region knew the airport was so located so close to Hollywood and many top Los Angeles-area attractions.

“Some thought the airport was in Palm Springs,” said airport spokeswoman Lucy Burghdorf, “Others thought it was in Vietnam,” because Hope had hosted annual USO Christmas tours to entertain troops during much of the Vietnam War.

To help solve BUR’s identity problem, “We studied what other airports had done and why,” said Michael Fiore, cofounder and chief brand officer of the Anyone Collective, “And for the most part we found the same answers: those with a geographic identifiers attached to them were performing better than others.”

The name-change, coupled with branding and marketing efforts that include everything from new signage at the airport and on highways to online advertising, has garnered the airport national awards and, more importantly, more passengers, said Fiore.

Some other airports have gently tweaked their names in the interest of better branding.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) was renamed St. Louis Lambert International Airport in February 2017. The move was made “to improve marketing positions locally and globally while also expanding connections with the St. Louis region,” according to the airport’s strategic plan.

And Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport (MKE) now uses the brand name Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.

“This decision was made to better identify our geographical location to travelers who are not from this region,” said MKE spokesman Harold Mester, “Our new brand adds the name of our anchor city while still honoring our namesake, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell, who is considered to be the father of the U.S. Air Force.”

Next up may be Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport .

“As we continue to market the airport in international and west coast markets, we have found that these populations are challenged to locate us,” said Kevin A. Dillon, Executive Director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, “Accordingly, we are undergoing a review to be completed by the end of the year to determine if it is feasible to change the airport name, and, if so, how we can continue to preserve the memory of Eugene Bradley at the airport.”

Bucking the Trend 

While the benefits of geographic branding are convincing some airports to change or tweak names, at least one airport is bucking the trend.

In 2017, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) changed the name of Honolulu International Airport (HNL) to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

The much-beloved Inouye served as Hawaii’s first representative in Congress in 1959 and went on to represent the Aloha State in both the House and Senate for a combined 53 years.

This is the fourth name change in the airport’s history, notes HDOT.

When it opened in 1927, HNL was named the John Rodgers Airport. After surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor, in 1947 the airport was renamed Honolulu Airport. “International” was added to the name in 1951.

It is too soon to tell if the name change will boost the local economy or increase tourism to Honolulu. But HDOT pegs the cost of new signage, parts, materials, labor and other tasks associated with this latest name change at one million dollars.

What do you think? Should an airport be named for a city or a celebrity?

Small airports bulk up for international service

My “At the Airport” column for USA TODAY this month is all about what small airports are doing to get ready for the international air service.

Here’s a slightly altered version of that column.

Once, the biggest and busiest U.S. airports had the market for international air service all to themselves.

But now smaller airports, such as Bradley International, near Hartford, CT, T.F. Green Airport, near Providence, RI, and Stewart International Airport, in New York’s Hudson Valley, have managed to snag some direct flights to Europe and, with those flights, a potentially profitable slice of the trans-Atlantic air service pie.

Bradley bulks up  

When Aer Lingus began year-round service between Dublin and Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Windsor Locks, CT in September, 2016, it had been eight years since the nation’s 54th busiest airport could boast a direct international flight.

(Northwest canceled nonstop flights between BDL and Amsterdam in 2008, when fuel prices spiked and the economy stumbled).

Bradley, which is about 110 miles from Boston’s Logan Airport and about 130 miles to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, gets its second international route staring June 17, when the fast-growing Norwegian Air, a European discount carrier, begins direct service between BDL and Edinburgh, Scotland.

To help convince Aer Lingus and, then, Norwegian to take a chance on adding service at Bradley, airport and local officials offered financial incentives, an increasingly common tool among ‘second-tier’ airports competing for service, and promised to beef up facilities inside the terminal.

The airport’s gates and ticket counters were already sized-right, with common-use equipment at the ticket counters, said Kevin Dillon, Bradley Airport’s executive director, but to accommodate the new international customers, the airport added a branch of the pay-per-use Escape Lounge and a new restaurant – Phillips Seafood – which made sure to have Irish beers on the menu. The Two Roads Brewing Company is about to open a tap room featuring Connecticut-made craft beers as well.

Bradley also added a duty free shop for international travelers and reports that in addition to whiskey and perfume, international passengers are buying lots of college-branded clothing, chocolate and roll-your-own tobacco.

Prepping in Providence

During June and July, Norwegian Air will kick off the first-ever year-round European routes from T.F. Green (PVD) in Warwick, R.I., the country’s 64th-busiest airport in 2015.

(PVD’s current international service includes TACV, which flies year round to Cabo Verde; and Azores Airline, which flies seasonally from PVD to Ponta Delgada, Azores.)

Service from PVD to Edinburgh, Scotland begins June 16; to Cork, Ireland on July 1; to Belfast and Dublin, Ireland on July 2; and to Shannon, Ireland on July 3. Summer-only flights to Bergen, Norway begin July 1.

To secure the five new routes, PVD matched “a voluminous amount of route analysis” said airport spokeswoman Patti Goldstein, “together with robust and outstanding community support,” which included “the same marketing funds that we offer to other airlines.”

A statement announcing the Norwegian service noted that the Federal Aviation Administration had invested about $110 million in upgrading T.F. Green and expanding the airport’s runways to better accommodate international flights. G

Goldstein said the airport is currently expanding its international arrival facility, with the goal of having enhancements in place for the kickoff of the Norwegian flights.

Sprucing up Stewart International Airport

Stewart International Airport, located about 70 miles north of New York City in New Windsor, near Newburgh, gets it first scheduled international service with Norwegian Air’s daily flights to Edinburgh, Scotland starting June 15, 2017

Flights from Stewart (SWF) to Dublin and Belfast begin July 1; and flights to both Shannon, Ireland and Bergen, Norway kick off on July 2. Frequency for each service will vary by season.

To get ready, Stewart International, ranked as the 206th-busiest U.S. airport in 2015, just raze a World War II-era hanger to make room for more overnight parking for aircraft.

Inside the terminal, concessions and amenities are being upgraded, said Edmond Harrison, general manager of SWF, which is operated by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

“We’re getting currency exchange, duty free shopping and a liquor license, which we don’t have now but will have when the first flight starts on June 15,” he said.

Harrison also said the duty free shelves will be stocked with products from area breweries, wineries and distilleries and the gift shops will be filled with everything from West Point sweatshirts (the U.S. military academy is 15 miles from the airport) to typical New York City souvenirs featuring the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center.

Two airports hotels (a Homewood Suites and a Courtyard by Marriott) are refurbishing facilities in advance of the new international travelers, said Harrison, and Hudson Valley tourism groups are gearing up to let visitors know about opportunities to visit nearby attractions such as West Point, the Culinary Institute of America, and the Woodbury Commons outlet shopping center, which draws over 12 million visitors a year.

And for those international visitors landing at Stewart International who want to head straight for the Big Apple, starting June 15 there will be scheduled Coach USA service, with Wi-Fi and in-seat power, to Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City.

All these upgrades won’t be just for the benefit of international flyers.

The Norwegian flights will bring the critical mass of passengers Stewart airport concessionaires need to make service investments worthwhile.

“So now, whether you’re flying Norwegian, JetBlue, American, Allegiant or Delta Connection,” said Harrison, “You’ll be able to have a cocktail before your flight.”

Museum Monday: New England Air Museum

I’ve been getting a lot of guff from aviation museum fans upset that I didn’t include their favorite museum in my recent msnbc.com column – Aviation and space museums that soar.

Airplanes in museum

I was asking for it.  There are close to 600 aviation and space museums in the country. And with room in the column for just six “top” places, I was sure to disappoint many readers. But now that I’ve read the comments and learned about the cool stuff at so many other aviation-related museums, I’ve decided to add Museum Monday to the line-up here at StuckatTheAirport.com.

To kick things off, I’ve chosen the New England Air Museum at Bradley International Airport in Windsor, CT.

Bradley is the airport where about 300 Virgin Atlantic passengers recently spent more than four hours stuck on an airplane when their Newark-bound flight was diverted and I’m sure they would have been much happier if they’d been hanging around this museum instead.

The New England Air Museum is the largest aviation museum in New England and has more than 125 aircraft and a huge collection of engines, instruments, aircraft parts, uniforms and personal memorabilia.

A few highlights in the collection include:

The last remaining four-engine American flying boat, the Sikorsky VS-44A, which was donated to the museum by  actress Maureen O’Hara and restored to its original condition;

A B-29 Bomber;

The Bunce-Curtiss Pusher (1912), the oldest surviving Connecticut-built airplane;

And a Kaman K-225 helicopter, the oldest surviving Kaman-built aircraft.

In addition to the artifacts and aircraft on display, the museum has Open Cockpit days, a flight simulator, special events and theme weeks throughout the summer. For example, the week of July 5th is Discover Blimps and Balloons Week.

There’s also a speaker program: this past weekend Sergei N. Khrushchev, the son of Nikita Khrushchev (Prime Minister of the Soviet Union from 1957-1964) gave a lecture about the Cuban Missile Crisis, as viewed from the Kremlin.

Have a favorite aviation or space museum you’d like to see featured on Museum Monday?

Please nominate it in the comments section below. If you have photos to share, all the better!

(New England Air Museum aircraft photos used in this post courtesy Cliff1066 via Flickr Creative Commons. He’s got dozens of other great photos from the museum on his Photostream as well. )

Band of Luggage Thieves nabbed at Bradly Int’l Airport

“Cameras. Laptop computers. Flat-screen televisions. Cellphones. Jewelry. Even 5-foot-tall African masks.”

bradleystolen

(Photo courtesy of Connecticut State Police)

That’s the way a Hartford Courant writer starts off his article about the arrest of a “band of thieving baggage handlers” at Bradley International Airport.  Some of the 11 people arrested worked for Delta Air Lines, others worked for Delta Global Services, which handled ground crew duties for Delta flights.

In statements to police, some of those arrested said that the thefts had taken place at least since 2006. According to arrest warrant affidavits, the thieves would rifle passengers’ bags as they unloaded them from the cargo holds of Delta aircraft. They would shove cameras and laptops into their pants, then hide the items above the ceiling in their locker room.

So if you do travel through BDL, be sure to keep an eye on your belongings. But also make time to see the three patch-sized embroidered scenes created by Raymond Materson to honor the 1994 Special Olympics.

Materson was in prison when he made the patches and unraveled his socks to get the colored thread to use in his artwork. Once out of prison, Materson kept sewing. His work is now highly prized and displayed in museums and in art galleries. Here’s an example of his recent work: a portrait of Queen Victoria.

materson

Maybe BDL’s Band of Luggage Thieves could learn a new skill.

Stuck at the airport? My tips in the Hartford Courant

Had a nice talk with Jesse Leavenworth, a reporter from the The Hartford Courant, a while back about my favorite topic – airports with great amenities – and see that his article has hit the paper.

I chatted with Leavenworth about some of my favorite airports to spend time in – including San Francisco International Airport – SFO (great art and food choices in the Int’l Terminal), Oregon’s Portland International Airport– PDX (great shops and no sales tax), and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (a casino, lots of art, on-site museum, and loads more).

Leavenworth was especially pleased to hear me praise Schiphol, because his paper’s hometown airport, Hartford’s Bradley International Airport (BDL) has a direct flight to Amsterdam. Oops.. not any more.. Northwest Airlines just announced that it is dropping that route as of October 2.

Bradley still has loads to offer, including a free parking coupon for folks who sign up for the airport’s frequent-parker program and free Wi-Fi for all.

Last time I went through BDL, they were still displaying something truly unusual: three patch-sized embroidered scenes created by Raymond Materson to honor the 1994 Special Olympics. Materson was in prison when he made the patches and unraveled his socks to get the colored thread to use in his artwork. Once out of prison, Materson kept sewing. His work is now highly prized and displayed in museums and in art galleries.

Materson is currently in his first major overseas exhibit at the Compton Verney Gallery in Warwkickshire, England. To celebrate, he made this portrait of Queen Victoria and was kind enough to let me share it with you.

Courtesy and copyright: Ray Materson