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Aviation: Orlando suing Melbourne over airport name

Officials in Orlando, Florida are suing Melbourne Airport (MLB) over "the confusing and misleading name Orlando Melbourne International Airport." Melbourne Airport is 48 miles from Orlando directly, or 62 miles by road; the journey between the two typically takes between an hour and an hour and a half. The lawsuit asks the court to bar Melbourne's aviation board from using "Orlando" in its airport's name, advertising or promotional materials. It also demands a retraction regarding “false and misleading statements” about the proximity to and relationship with Orlando MLB's website for a year, and payment damages and court fees. Greater Orlando Airport Authority (GOAA) also says that "illegal advertisements are intended to cause consumers to stop booking airline flights to GOAA’s Orlando International Airport, and opt instead to mistakenly fly to Melbourne International Airport."

Managers at Orlando International Airport are suing smaller Melbourne Airport over use of the Orlando city name. (US Geological Survey)

The action claims that "by causing a likelihood of confusion, mistake and deception, MLB is inflicting irreparable harm on the goodwill symbolized by GOAA’s Orlando International Airport trademark and the reputation for quality that it embodies."

Orlando International currently serves around 44m passengers per annum while Melbourne handles approximately 500,000. The smaller facility has been using Orlando in its name for marketing purposes since the turn of the millennium. GOAA has attempted similar action against Orlando-Sanford International Airport, to the northeast of the city, in the past.

This isn't the first time a US airport has sued another over the use of a name. In 2012 Tampa International Airport took action against the recently renamed Brooksville-Tampa Regional Airport, claiming Brooksville was taking "advantage of the value we've built in our name" and that new name for Hernando County Airport could cause Tampa International "immediate and irreparable harm."

A proposal to rename Stockton Airport to San Francisco-Stockton Regional Airport was also rebuffed when Ivar Sateroat, Director at San Francisco's primary airport, wrote to San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors to object to the change. The two cities are around 80 miles apart, with the road journey typically taking an hour and a half or more.

Airlines and local authorities have also promoted alternative names, particularly for remote airports that act as alternatives to those serve large cities. Oslo Torp, Paris Beauvais, Frankfurt Hahn and Brussels South Charleroi are just a few examples of a small airport being promoted through association to a distant city.

Editorial opinion: One wonders what would happen if senior managers at London Heathrow, London Gatwick, London Stansted or London City raised objections to the use of the of London in the name of airports at Southend, Luton and Oxford.

Text © The Aviation Oracle

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