San Francisco is suing Oakland to stop it from changing the name of its airport

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A traveler walks through the baggage claim area at Oakland International Airport's Terminal 2 on April 12.

San Francisco

San Francisco is suing its neighbor across the Bay over a plan to change the name of Oakland Airport.

Earlier this month, Oakland Port Commissioners voted unanimously to change the name of Oakland International Airport to “San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport.”

“The feedback we get [from airlines] “Because of the lack of name recognition, it's difficult to sell tickets inbound,” said Danny Wan, executive director of the Port of Oakland. “People don't know that Oakland is on San Francisco Bay. That's been one of the weak points in our marketing.”

The new name will not change the airport's three-letter identifier, OAK.

San Francisco filed suit in federal court on Thursday, asking the court to block Oakland from using the name, alleging that Oakland plans to “knowingly and knowingly take advantage of the confusion.”

The city of San Francisco trademarks the name “San Francisco International Airport” and is commonly referred to by its three-letter code, SFO.

San Francisco Mayor: Oakland has its own unique identity

San Francisco Mayor London Breed also weighed in.[Oakland] Rich in culture, wonderful people and has its own unique identity. It does not need the name San Francisco as part of its airport to stand out,” she wrote in a letter to the Port of Oakland.

Wan rejected the idea that the new name might cause confusion.

“There are many, many airports that have a similar geographical name or city or share their addresses… However, airlines have figured out how to do it. Airports have figured out how to do it. Passengers have figured out how to do it.”

“San Francisco's lawsuit is disappointing,” Mary Richardson, an attorney for the Port of Oakland, told CNN. “OAK's proposed renaming does not violate the SFO mark. We will vigorously defend our right to claim our place on San Francisco Bay. We stand up for Oakland and our community in East Bay.”

At least one airline has already started using the new name.

Azores Airlines, which flies from Auckland to the island of Terceira in the Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean, is listing OAK under its proposed new name.

United Airlines, which has more than 40% of the SFO market, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, told CNN it opposes the proposed name change.

A representative for the airline said: “The name change may cause confusion and inconvenience for many travelers who are not familiar with the area, and lead to problems such as passengers inadvertently booking travel to the wrong airport.”

Southwest, which has 82% market share in Oakland, said in a press release with the port that it “strongly supports this rebranding that recognizes OAK's economic standing and influence in the San Francisco Bay Area while staying true to its Oakland roots.” It did not respond. Southwest requested CNN for comment.

Final approval of the name change awaits a second vote from the Oakland Port Board of Commissioners on May 9.

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