- Airports across the US are named after notable figures, such as presidents and Supreme Court Justices, connected to their location.
- While it is common for airports to change their names, it is unprecedented for an airport like Hollywood Burbank to change its name six times.
- The current name, Hollywood Burbank Airport, is aimed at better reflecting the airport’s proximity to the media center of Burbank and its major media companies.
Airports across the United States are named after icons in history, such as John F. Kennedy International (JKF), Daniel K. Inouye International (HNL), George Bush Intercontinental (IAH), Baltimore–Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), a few examples. These airports are named after two Presidents, an iconic Supreme Court Justice, a hero in World War II, and a mayor.
Airports are named after those who make significant contributions to the United States and are connected to where the airport is located. However, as time passes, airports will often change their names, such as in the case of Las Vegas Airport. In 2021, the Clark County Commission voted unanimously to change the name from McCarran International Airport, a Senator from Nevada who heavily contributed to the growth of Las Vegas, to Harry Reid International Airport who was a former Senate Majority Leader from Nevada and represented Nevada for 30 years until 2017.
While it has become common practice over the years for airports to change their names, it is unprecedented for an airport to change its name six times. Such is the case with Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR). Let’s dive into the airport’s history and how its six names have changed.
The story of Hollywood Burbank Airport began almost a century ago with United Aircraft and Transport Corporation, a partnership between Boeing and United Airlines, which together owned multiple small airlines that operated under separate names. One of the airlines was Pacific Air Transport, which Boeing acquired due to its extensive mail route contacts in 1928.
Following this acquisition, United Aircraft and Transport began looking for a new airport for Pacific Air Transport. It used surveys from the Aeronautics Department of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, which identified potential airport sites in 1926. The area they chose was located in Burbank and was already a landing field for airplanes starting in 1928 under the name Angeles Mesa Drive Airport.
Construction on the airport began with Mayor Harvey Bruce officially breaking ground at the site in 1928. Over the next two years, the airport would undergo significant expansion with the addition of a modern terminal building and two runways over 3,600 ft.
United Airport was officially opened on Memorial Day weekend in 1930. The company hoped the new terminal would allow passenger service to develop in Southern California. The newly minted terminal at United Airport served as a direct competitor to Grand Central Airport in Glendale, which at that time was the main airport for the Los Angeles Airport.
Following the opening, United Airport eclipsed Grand Central Airport. It became the largest commercial airport in the Los Angeles area until it was passed by what is now Los Angeles International Airport. The name of Burbank airport remained United Airport until 1934, when it was renamed Union Air Terminal in the same year the holding company United Aircraft and Transport dissolved amid Federal antitrust actions. The name Union Air Terminal stuck until 1940 when Lockheed purchased the airport and thus changed the name to Lockheed Air Terminal.
When Lockheed purchased the airport, it was served by three passenger airlines: United Airlines, Western Airlines, and TWA. However, in 1947, when Los Angeles Airport opened, a majority of the scheduled commercial flights left Burbank for the larger and newer airport. That being said, there were still some commercial services, however, at reduced levels. Over the next twenty years, Lockheed Air Terminal became one of the largest satellite airports in the Los Angeles area. It was served by Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA), Western Airlines, United Airlines, and Pacific Airlines.
In 1967, the airport underwent yet another name change to Hollywood-Burbank Airport. Following the name change in 1970, Continental Airlines began serving destinations from the airport using a Boeing 727-200 aircraft. The airport name remained Hollywood- Burbank Airport until 1978 when Lockheed sold the airport to the Burbank–Glendale–Pasadena Airport Authority. The new owners of the airport gave the airport its fifth name change, this time to Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport, to better reflect the surrounding cities of the airport.
The new name did not hinder the airport’s growth. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the airport underwent the most significant commercial expansion with the addition of larger carriers coupled with regional airlines serving the airport. By the mid-1980s, the airport was saved by the nine airlines with nonstop flights as far as Chicago. Alaska Airlines became one of the more notable airlines as they started serving the airport in 1981, offering flights from the airport to Seattle and Portland using 727-100s and 727-200s. Burbank was the airline’s first airport in Southern California.
Yet another name change
The name Burbank–Glendale–Pasadena Airport stuck until November 2003, when the airport authority voted to change the name to Bob Hope Airport. This was in honor of comedian Bob Hope, who lived in nearby Toluca Lake for many years and passed away in 2002. Hope stored his airplane at the airport. The new name was unveiled on December 17th, 2003, the 100th anniversary of the Wright brother’s first flight in 1903 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the same year Hope was born.
Then, in 2016, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority announced that it had chosen a new name for the airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport. This was not a new name as the airport was named Hollywood Burbank Airport between 1967 and 1978, and the authority decided to change the name due to the lack of recognition of Bob Hope Airport’s geographic region. According to the airport authority, the iconic Bob Hope name is not going anywhere as the complex is still called Bob Hope Airport for legal purposes. Moreover, the Federal Aviation Administration refers to the airport as Bob Hope Airport.
Photo: Logan Bush | Shutterstock
The name has been used as a new marketing tactic for brand identity as the airport authority hopes to affiliate the airport with its proximal location to Burbank, which has become one of the major media centers with many major companies such as the Walt Disney Company, Warner Brothers, NBC Universal, Dreamworks, and more having media studies in the city.
Hollywood Burbank Airport today
Today, the airport is served by nine airlines, including American Airlines, Avelo Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, JSX, Southwest, Spirit, and United. Most recently, start-up carrier Avelo Airlines began using the airport as a hub when it commenced operations in April 2021. In September, the airline flew its one-millionth passenger from the airport. In addition to the commercial airlines, Hollywood Burbank Airport is home to a more prominent private aviation presence.
Photo: Glenn Highcove | Shutterstock
During the first six months of 2023, the airport reported a 2.8% increase in passengers compared to last year. This culminated in around 2.8 million travelers passing through the airport. However, it is down 2% from 2019 levels. The airport continues to be a great alternative for passengers traveling to the Los Angeles area.
Although Hollywood Burbank has stuck for the airport since 2017, only time will tell if it will undergo its seventh name change. For now, the new name will stick for the foreseeable future.
What do you make of Hollywood Burbank Airport’s name? Which name was your favorite? Have you ever flown to or from Burbank Airport? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
Sources: Los Angeles Daily News, LAist