A new name for the airport is in the works: St. Louis International Airport at Lambert Field.
Officials hope that putting St. Louis first in the name will more clearly link it to the St. Louis region.
“How you’re identified is very important, and we want to have people from around the world, and around the country, be able to identify our airport. And there’s no better way than to lead off with St. Louis,” said Kathleen Osborn, executive director of the Regional Business Council and an airport commission member.
No longer would it be Lambert-St. Louis International Airport, its moniker since 1971. The airport is named for Albert Bond Lambert, who learned to fly with the Wright Brothers and served in the U.S. Army in World War I.
Lambert brought the 1923 International Air Races to St. Louis, according to the airport, and the airfield was christened Lambert St. Louis Flying Field in his honor. Charles Lindbergh flew to St. Louis to attend the air races and decided to remain as an instructor. Lambert became one of Lindbergh’s first financial backers for his historic nonstop flight from New York to Paris in 1927.
On Feb. 8, 1928, Lambert sold to the city of St. Louis his 170-acre flying field in northwestern St. Louis County and an option on an adjoining 76 acres for $60,000. That was half the market value, and the 246 acres began the current airport.
But, according to an airport study released Wednesday at the airport commission meeting, those outside the St. Louis region don’t connect with the historical name Lambert, and few in the region can accurately define Lambert’s role in the airport’s history either.
Officials paid $8,500 to Insights Strategic Marketing and Research to complete a passenger survey.
Fewer than 17 of the 600 respondents correctly identified the connection and relevance of Lambert’s name and the reason the airport is named for him.
People often had the wrong idea. Some thought he was a former mayor. Others thought the name came from a restaurant (Lambert’s Cafe in Sikeston, Mo., is famous for its “throwed rolls”), or a baseball player.
One of the responses hit home to why the airport is pondering a name change.
“I need to fly to St. Louis, not Lambert,’” said one person, who said placing Lambert first in the airport’s name causes delays in finding the airport on internet searches.
Civic Progress, an organization of top executives from the region’s largest companies, was briefed on the new name last month.
The group finds that it makes sense, especially because it emphasizes a sense of one region, a spokesman said Thursday.
But Laurie Haffenreffer disagrees. She said her grandmother was married to Albert Bond Lambert Jr., to whom she was not biologically related but considered a grandfather.
She wants the Lambert name preserved and doesn’t want the airport’s name to change.
She’s worried that by moving the Lambert name to the end of the airport’s name, it will eventually be dropped altogether.
Haffenreffer, 62, also questioned the expense of changing the name, such as buying new signs, and said other airports such as LaGuardia Airport in New York aren’t changing their names.
“I think we as a city could do better by playing up the heritage instead of ignoring it,” she said.
A name change to promote its location is something the St. Louis Downtown Airport did in 1999. Although the airport — which had been called St. Louis Downtown Parks Airport, among other names — is across the Mississippi River in Cahokia, the airport’s name change was spurred to “eliminate confusion and emphasize the airport’s convenient location only minutes from the heart of downtown St. Louis,” according to an airport history.
St. Louis International Airport at Lambert Field would better highlight St. Louis as part of its “visual brand identity,” according to a summary of an advisory committee’s findings. Members of that committee included executives from Enterprise Holdings, BJC HealthCare, the St. Louis Blues and Explore St. Louis, as well as airport leaders.
It also keeps “international” in the name — the airport offers direct flights to Toronto, and to airports in Mexico and the Caribbean. And the airport is still pushing 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 study found that the airport’s current marketing and branding is more than 30 years old, and has become “stale and ineffective” while industry marketing has intensified with competitors routinely updating such things every few years.
Detailed findings of the report include that:
• Its name should emphasize St. Louis first, because the airport is marketing itself nationally and internationally for passenger, cargo and other business.
• St. Louis should be the primary focus to give global audiences an instant geographic marker for the region.
• St. Louis as the primary name is more compatible with its airport code (STL) and connects easier with global audiences for online ticket purchases or information searches.
• The Lambert name should be repositioned in the official name by keeping the historical link to the airport’s namesake to retain local identity, and to continue to celebrate history and Albert Bond Lambert.
• The “STL” airport code should be the key airport identifier in all marketing messaging that promotes the airport and the region.
Any name change must be approved by the airport’s board of commissioners, as well as by the city’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment and by the Board of Aldermen.
The airport commission is likely to vote on the name change at its next meeting on Sept. 7.
How St. Louisans would adapt to a name change remains to be seen. Many still call the airport Lambert Field. The airport has pushed for its terminals to be identified as Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, but it’s far more common to hear them referred to as the main terminal and the east terminal, which also is just called the Southwest terminal because it’s the only airline that flies out of it.