With John Wayne Day being dumped by California’s state legislature for alleged racist remarks, Bob Hope Airport is about to be renamed “Hollywood Burbank Airport.”
The 1930s through the 1960s were the Golden Age of Hollywood. Two of the biggest and most beloved stars of the era were John Wayne and Bob Hope. As a result, Orange County Airport was renamed John Wayne Airport by the county supervisors in 1979, and the cities of that control the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport renamed their airport Bob Hope Airport in 2003.
But officials of the Bob Hope Airport voted 8-to-1 on May 2 to change the airport’s name to ‘Hollywood Burbank Airport’ in an effort to market the “Hollywood” name to potential travelers from the Midwest and East Coast.
It was obvious that Bob Hope, whose last movie cameos were in the 1980s, was about to be swept into the dustbin of history after the Airport Authority contracted last year for the design of a new “marketing identity to the masses” with the South Pasadena-based branding firm “Anyone Collective.” AC specializes in “Tinseltown” viral messaging for groups like MTV, Ed Hardy, The Grammys, and City Walk.
Airport Commissioner Don Brown told the Los Angeles Times that, “The name of the airport — Bob Hope — is just not. We’ve been told by our travel agencies here and been told by the airlines that we’ve got to do something, and the name Bob Hope just doesn’t identify with this airport.”
Most area residents appreciate the convenience of the centrally located Burbank airport near the 210 and 5 freeways, versus the usually daunting LAX traffic on the 405 and 110 freeways.
But commercial passenger traffic at Bob Hope Airport imploded from an all-time high of 5.9 million in 2007 to a low of 3.8 million passengers in 2014. Traffic at the airport turned up slightly last year to 3.9 million passengers.
The bigger complaint than the name Bob Hope has been the condition of the run-down, 85-year old Burbank facility. But the Airport Authority is planning to put a measure for a huge modernization and safety upgrade program on the November ballot. Planners expect that the expanded capacity will include new amenities, such as hip eating and shopping experiences.
All of the Commissioners agreed that the airport needed a geographical identifier to attract more passengers to fly into the Burbank airfield. But Commissioner Steve Madison, the only holdout against the name change, said that adding “Hollywood” to the brand would not be as effective as adding “Los Angeles” in attracting the most passengers.
Madison told the Times, “The problem this is all trying to solve is that many people in the country and beyond don’t know that Burbank is so [close] to L.A.” He added, “If we want to cure that, adding a name like Hollywood is just going to be more confusing. I think we have to bite the bullet and use Los Angeles and Burbank.”
But many Burbank residents loathe the idea the their city would want to be associated directly with Los Angeles.