The airport is on its way to getting a new name, but it's not the change officials originally proposed.
The airport commission unanimously voted Wednesday to recommend the name St. Louis-Lambert International Airport.
Airport officials had considered changing the airport’s name to St. Louis International Airport at Lambert Field, but critics — including descendants of Albert Bond Lambert — opposed the idea of putting the Lambert name at the end.
“This makes everyone happy,” said Lea Bender, Lambert’s great-granddaughter, of the new name.
Should the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment and the Board of Aldermen also approve the new name, the title of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, the airport’s moniker since 1971, will eventually disappear.
Keeping the Lambert name continues the honor bequeathed by the city on the civic leader and aviation pioneer whose list of accomplishments includes getting St. Louis to host the 1923 International Air Races, an event that brought Charles Lindbergh here. Lambert was one of Lindbergh’s first financial backers for his nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927.
Without Lambert, who sold his land at a discount to the city, the airport wouldn’t be where it is today.
But according to an airport study released last month, those outside the St. Louis region don’t connect with the historical name Lambert. Few in the region can accurately define Lambert’s role in the airport’s history either.
Airport leaders hope the new name will better market the region globally and emphasize St. Louis while keeping ties to history. A name that emphasizes St. Louis has the support of business groups including Civic Progress, the Regional Business Council and the St. Louis Regional Chamber.
The airport is looking at ways to better highlight the accomplishments of Lambert, said Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, the airport director. She also said the costs associated with the name change would be absorbed into its ongoing operational budget and that airport employees could phase in some of the changes, such as re-doing signs.
“We will not increase the budget to do this,” she said.
She said the airport had spent the last few weeks talking with Lambert relatives — including a lunch with Hamm-Niebruegge and Lambert descendants — and heard how important it was that Lambert still have a vital position in the airport’s name.
The importance of the Lambert name was never in question, said June Fowler, an airport commissioner part of a marketing committee that worked on the name change.
“It was how do we more appropriately respect the history and ensure that as we send staff out to do what we’re all trying to do — which is to get more flights into this airport, both domestically and internationally — how do we make the strongest case possible? How do we not have to explain who we are and where we are? And we thought the best way to do that was to lead with St. Louis,” said Fowler, senior vice president of corporate and public communications for BJC HealthCare.
The airport offers direct flights to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. And leaders continue to push for the return of flights to Europe, which disappeared with Trans World Airlines. American Airlines ceased its hub operations here through a series of cuts after absorbing the bankrupt TWA in 2001.
The airport’s airlines operated 250 daily departures to nearly 70 nonstop destinations this past summer, and it served more than 8 million passengers through July — an increase of 9 percent over the same period last year.