WINDSOR LOCKS – The Connecticut Airport Authority board of directors approved a study to look at changing the name of Bradley International Airport to more easily identify it with its location in Connecticut.
CAA Director Kevin Dillon said a recent study showed that Bradley had little name recognition outside of New England because it isn’t tied to any particular geographic location. People flying in from Europe or the West Coast won’t know that Bradley offers a Northeast alternative to busier Boston and New York airports, he said.
“We find particularly as we get into international service there’s not a very high name recognition for Bradley airport,” Dillon said during a board of directors meeting Monday. “When you’re over in Europe trying to market Bradley to the entire continent there it becomes a challenge.”
The board vote Monday gives the airport’s marketing staff formal authorization to study the name change.
“We don’t have any preconceived notions as to what the name should be,” Dillon said.
Dillon said the board and airport staff could look to the strategy adopted in Milwaukee, where General Mitchell International Airport became Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.
He said during an interview after the board meeting that a name like Bradley-Connecticut International Airport could easily place the destination for people booking travel while still honoring the airport’s namesake, Lt. Eugene M. Bradley.
Bradley died in a 1941 dogfighting training exercise at what was then called Windsor Locks Army Air Base during the lead-up to American involvement in World War II.
Dillon said the BDL moniker will always remain the airport’s three-letter identifier because all the others are taken. Getting a new identifier like CON or HAR would require the CAA to convince another airport to trade, he said.
There might also be opportunities to continue honoring Lt. Bradley with the new ground transportation center coming to the airport, Dillon said.
Two board members – J. Scott Guilmartin and Karen Jarmoc – said they wanted the airport staff to be sure to continue recognizing Bradley into the future and requested that they involve veterans groups in the name change study.
Board Vice Chairman Michael Long said he’s hoping a new naming strategy would capitalize on the “Gateway to New England” motto in Bradley’s current branding.
“This is bigger than just Connecticut, it’s bigger than Bradley,” Long said. “In Europe and other places in the world Bradley airport means nothing and it doesn’t attract anybody who would say ‘Oh that’s Connecticut.’ People just don’t associate Bradley airport with any place and it’s important for people to have that feeling, to be able to connect with Connecticut and with New England.”
Long has been serving on the boards overseeing Bradley for 30 years, and said having the airport named after a veteran is a point of pride. However, if the airport is to continue growing the board must look for ways to market Connecticut and New England as a viable destination, he said.
A name change has been discussed several times in the past, including serious discussions in 2007. Before the CAA became an independent agency in 2011 a name change would have required legislative approval, but now the sole authority rests with the board of directors, Dillon said.
He said he does not foresee hiring a consultant to conduct a name change study.