“Wold Class” Atlanta Airport Has Some Marketing Issues

Filed Under: Travel

Airport marketing campaigns are a bit bizarre to me in concept, since in most markets you’re pretty much a captive audience, so you don’t need to be reminded to fly out of LAX or DFW or Phoenix Sky Harbor.

And yet airport authorities spend much too much money each year on advertising, leading to such gems as:

  • Gatwick, Obviously
  • Connecting the Americas (Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport; but how, exactly?)
  • I ✈ OAK (Oakland International Airport)
  • Easy Come, Easy Go (Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport)

Keep in mind somebody got paid a lot of money to come up with those slogans.

One thing you’ll notice about two of the examples above is that the “official” names of many American airports are unwieldy, to say the least. It’s great that we choose to honor our heroes like John F. Kennedy, or… former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, or an officer in the Spanish-American War, or the former Secretary of Transportation in the George W. Bush administration, or basically any living U.S. ex-President, and hell, maybe their wives too. (Team Hillary, obvi.)

Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport James M. Nissen Terminal Complex (aka how many agendas can the San Jose -- sorry, "San José" -- City Council put on one sign?)
Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport James M. Nissen Terminal Complex (aka how many agendas can the San Jose — sorry, “San José” — City Council put on one sign?)

That makes it great for a few civic leaders, but as the names grow longer and unwieldier, terrible for passengers (and signmakers). And in Baltimore’s case, grammarians (so it’s not an international airport, but rather an international Thurgood Marshall airport?).

Just call it "BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport" for short!
Just call it “BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport” for short!

Atlanta’s ridiculously named Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is in a bit of a bind. Between 1980 and 2003, it was known simply as Hartsfield International Airport, after former mayor William Hartsfield, and in 2003 those who wanted to honor recently deceased former mayor Maynard Jackson (who did, in fairness, lead efforts to get the airport rebuilt in 1980) lobbied to have the airport renamed after him.

Because The South, a lot of people got up in arms about taking Hartsfield’s name off the airport, so the Atlanta City Council just decided to combine the names, giving us the current tongue twister no one uses.

I’ve heard people say “Hartsfield Airport,” though of course those are the same generation of people who say “dungarees” for jeans and “davenport” for a couch. By and large, most people seem to settle on Atlanta Airport, or even just ATL.

They probably used a digital sign in case they need to change the name again
They probably used a digital sign in case they need to change the name again

And that’s fine! As a society we like abbreviating things. We don’t say Los Angeles International Airport, we say LAX. We don’t say Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; it’s Sea-Tac, and so on.

But again, because Politics, the Atlanta City Council is not happy about this, you guys. To that end, they passed a resolution and stomped their feet up and down and demanded to know why people weren’t calling it “Hartsfield-Jackson,” ordering the Aviation General Manager to somehow make people say “-Jackson.”

And so Atlanta Hartsfield International Maynard Jackson Airport Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is now spending up to $500k on an advertising campaign to accomplish this. Per WSB Radio:

The recently announced campaign will be rolled out in three phases.

It will include letters and calls to government officials, as well as members of the travel industry and the media.

The airport also plans to hand out buttons, posters and magnets to airport workers to get its point across. Later this year, travelers will see advertisements within the airport itself.

At last, eye-rolling news to come out of the Atlanta Airport that has nothing to do with Delta! (That one’s for you, Ben.)

Some of the $500,000 marketing budget has already gone toward a billboard campaign boasting that ATL was a, quote, “Wold Class” airport. Yes, “wold.”

Clearly, the airport marketing folks are just #winning all across the board today in Atlanta. Maybe they should take marketing cues from their corporate neighbor downtown? But I suspect even Don Draper wants to stay away from this mess.

You stay Wold Classy, Atlanta!

  1. I think airports advertising isn’t as much of a “what’re they doing?!” action as you make it out to be. Increased passenger demand could lead to increased flights which ultimately means increased revenue for the government and surrounds in which the airport resides. That’s especially true when upgrades to the airport are made possible through government funding that comes about as a result of taxes. It’s not much of a stretch to believe that an airport (or “airport authority”) would want to drum-up positive publicity to garner votes and their subsequent tax dollars.

  2. “Gatwick, Obviously” is the slogan for the marketing campaign to get support for a second runway and competing against London Heathrow, that desperately needs a third, and fourth! So, advertising for that makes sense to me as a concept as there is competition in London.

    Outside that campaign they use “Your London airport. Gatwick”.

  3. Isn’t there a “thing” going on right now with regard to a potential second airport? That may be playing into the marketing strategy.

  4. It’s a ridiculous waste of many but, in fairness, when I read the WSB story, it says they’re spending part of their “half million” dollar marketing budget on the campaign – not $500 million, which would be a whole different world of stupid…

  5. It’s stupid no matter how much money is spent but, in fairness, when I read the WSB story, it talks about them spending “part of their half a million dollar marketing budget” which is a whole different number than the $500 million you cite…

  6. You left out the most ridiculous part of the story. Some folks here in ATL with nothing better to do are asserting that leaving the “Jackson” out of the name is due to bigotry, since Jackson was black.

  7. I prefer its full name: The William Berry Hartsfield – Maynard Holbrook Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

  8. I don’t think a campaign is out of line if you have multiple options in a metro area. OAK’s campaign made sense as someone who lives in the region because defaulting to SFO is not a great idea.

  9. The first time I transited ATL I did so specifically so I could check in at “Hartsfield Latoyah Jackson Intergalactic Spaceport and Nail Empourium” on Foursquare.

  10. Unlike most US airports, major UK airports like Heathrow and Gatwick are now privately owned. So the competition is fierce not just for the new runway but also for passengers. Marketing therefore does matter in their case. What is good is that most European airports shun the political correctness of naming airports after some dead guy.

  11. MSY used to be a major international hub for centra and south American flights- 30 years ago on Eastern and Continental. Now they have a single flight to Honduras.

  12. “Because The South.” LOL! That explains everything that has gone wrong with this country since 1865. Just let ’em go, so that they can have their own independent plantation.

  13. They have been at this a while. They even named the international terminal the Maynard Jackson International Terminal in an effort to get people to say Jackson in relation to the airport. It always fails.

  14. Your post thoroughly offends me. I am an ATL native of sorts, arriving in 1986. Both of these men deserve to be honored, and the airport name is appropriate. I mean, really, is it so hard to say “Hartsfield-Jackson”? I am very glad to see the city’s new ad campaign.

  15. Marketing does matter when you’re trying to compete for enough public support to get government approval for the expansion of your airport. Hence Gatwick and Heathrow spending a lot of money on marketing right across the UK (well, at least they are in Birmingham, anyway.)

  16. I like all the fake names for ATL that pop up when you check in: Latoya Jackson Hairport and Nail Emporium is my favorite. Why don’t they just call it ATL!?

  17. I traveled Delta via Atlanta back when they first added the “Jackson” part of the name. I loved getting on the train between terminals, talking to the wife on the phone and telling her “I should be home in a couple hours, I just landed at, I think they call it the Atlanta Lotoya Jackson? or is it Michael Jackson international airport… No I have no idea why they call it that now…”

    That always got half the train car cracking up… 🙂

  18. Surely you know that the REAL name is “Latoya Jackson Intergalactic Hairport and Check Cashing Boutique.” 🙂 There is a check-in by this name (and a million other variations) on Facebook and checking in at some bizarrely named version of the airport has become something of a tradition for us Atlanta residents.

  19. @Gene,

    I’m an actual Atlanta native – arriving in 1971 by way of Northside Hospital in Sandy Springs. Is it so hard to type Atlanta instead of ATL? Very offensive. 😛

    I don’t know anyone who calls Atlanta airport anything other than “the airport” if they are locals. You might very occasionally hear “PDK or Cobb County” from your private pilot friends. If you’re connecting, it’s “Atlanta” as in I’ve got a flight from from Huntsville to DC via Atlanta.

  20. These people are just over sensitive boobs. Who the hell cares what people call the airport. I want to know what each one of them call DCA when they fly up to DC…if they do. If someone asks them where they are flying into I bet they just say “National” instead of “Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport”. Hmmmm.

  21. Locals refer to it as “The Airport” or “Hartsfield.” The Jackson part of it was added for no other reason than lawmakers wanted the first black mayor’s name to be included with the airport name. In my opinion, it would’ve been better to call it the Atlanta MLK Airport as MLK did much more for this city than Mayor Jackson ever did.

  22. Some airports have names that get used for generations, and they’re not just in the South: LaGuardia, JFK, Dulles, O’Hare, etc. When I was growing up, Atlanta was Hartsfield and New Orleans was Moisant Field. That’s what my parents called them and that’s what I’ll probably call them to the day I die. Spending money to try to get me to call the airport “Hartsfield-Jackson” is idiotic, and don’t even try to wrap that effort in political correctness. I appreciate the desire to honor significant persons, and who really cares about renaming “1st Street” as boulevard. If you really want to honor someone, however, build something new and name it after them. Don’t try to dishonor the name choice of the people who originally built the place, or worse, hyphenate it as though Mayor Hartsfield and Mayor Jackson decided to get married.

  23. I wonder if they’re going to make people say they’re landing at the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Which is stupid b/c the naming for the new to-be-constructed international terminal to honor Maynard Jackson was announced in July 2003, less than a month after Jackson died and 3 months before the city council voted to change the airport’s name to again honor Jackson. I was born and raised in Atlanta, left, then came back and was living there in 2003 when this went down and thought it was stupid and basically a useless political move to pander to various parties. There was some rumor floating that it would take so long to construct the international terminal (and that it might not ever happen), that they had to honor Jackson in the airport name. And hey, if they honor him twice, whatever.

  24. Because the South? You’re an idiot. Ben should be editing your posts before they go up.

  25. Because The South… Because Politics. How uber-trendy and ‘tarded you sound.

    Jack, “your kind” ain’t welcome down here, anyway. We’ll continue to enjoy our sweet tea, comfort food, and football. You can keep your frou-frou food and attitude north of the Mason Dixon

  26. >or the former Secretary of Transportation in the George W. Bush administration

    At the time that Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport was renamed after him, Mineta—who was born in San Jose—had

    * Served as a Councilman of San Jose
    * Served as Mayor of San Jose (was the first Asian-American mayor of a major U.S. city)
    * Served as Congressional Representative of the 13th (later redistricted to the 15th) District, which included… San Jose
    * Served as the chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee
    * Secured federal funding for various improvements and expansion of the airport
    * Served briefly as Secretary of Commerce (the first Asian-American to do so), under President Clinton

    Gee, I wonder why the San Jose City Council voted 10-1 to rename the airport after him?

    Incidentally, as a kid he was sent to a WW2 Japanese-American internment camp, and later had a respectable Army career. He was also the person who ordered the grounding of all planes on September 11.

  27. Old thread, but I say *NOTHING* should be named after a politician, period. Let your actions in office speak for themselves rather than forcing your name to be being graffiti’d across public property at a substantial expense.

    The best one is near one of my homes. The main road is named after the civil/traffic engineer who designed the original layout…which is a complete disaster & mess. In the middle of the night you can drive the whole length in about 10 minutes. In normal rush hour traffic, it’s 40-60 minutes. Add in an accident or two and it can easily extend up to 75 minutes. And we’re all reminded who the incompetent dolt was every time we see the street signs.

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