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Bob Hope Airport confronts identity crisis; hunts for a glam new identity

The Bob Hope Airport in Burbank on Dec. 17, 2003.
The Bob Hope Airport in Burbank on Dec. 17, 2003.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

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Like an aging celebrity looking for a hip new image, Bob Hope Airport's governing board has hired a consultant to re-imagine the Burbank airfield's name and marketing to invoke Hollywood and the nearby entertainment industry.

Although Bob Hope has been called "Entertainer of the Century,"  that name might not be show-bizzy enough for the airport honchos.

From a business and marketing standpoint, the airport named Hope is not well known to fliers east of the Rockies, said airport spokeswoman Lucy Burghdorf. That's the audience the airport is trying to attract  with a new marketing identity that is likely to include nearby Hollywood.

"We recognize the need to develop a stronger geographic recognition for the airport because people east of the Rockies don't know where Burbank or Bob Hope Airport is," Burghdorf said. "So we're trying to identify ourselves as, possibly, the Hollywood Burbank airport."

She said airport officials want fliers to realize it is close to 14 of the 18 major attractions in the Los Angeles area like Universal Studios,  Warner Brothers Studios,  the Hollywood sign, Hollywood Bowl, and USC and UCLA. The airport is 15 miles from Downtown L.A.

The Anyone Collective consulting firm in South Pasadena got the $50,000 contract from the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority to evaluate rebranding and marketing options, including names invoking Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

For 11 years, the airport was officially called the Hollywood-Burbank Airport. That ended in 1978, when the  Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority took over and dubbed it with the unwieldy three-city name.

The place has had six different names since its opening in 1930, according to the airport's website.

United Airport (1930–1934)
Union Air Terminal (1934–1940)
Lockheed Air Terminal (1940–1967)
Hollywood-Burbank Airport (1967–1978)
Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport (1978–2003)
Bob Hope Airport (2003–present)

The Bob Hope name recognized one of Hollywood's biggest stars, but it was problematic -- it took years for local residents to realize it referred to the airport in Burbank, said Burghdorf.  Over the past few years, airport officials have taken to calling it Burbank Bob Hope Airport, she said.

The airport's peak annual passenger count was nearly 6 million in 2007, but the recession that put a damper on passenger travel nationwide pulled down Bob Hope's passenger numbers as well. About 3.8 million people used the airport last year, Burghdorf said.

Locals who fly in and out of Burbank appreciate the close-in parking, quick shuttles and short security lines (as compared with gigantic LAX). You can fly nonstop to 12 U.S. destinations, and reach most other places with one stop. And it's right next to a new 1,000-vehicle covered car rental center and an Amtrak train station.

One airport feature won't need renaming. The main street running to the airport is Hollywood Way.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the distance of the airport to downtown Los Angeles. It is about 15 miles.