On the concourse: the full name of the place is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, though some might call it ATL.
Photo: Associated Press
Photo: Associated Press

Call it Hartsfield-hyphenated-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, or else

Whether you call it Hartsfield Atlanta, Atlanta International or just plain Hartsfield, airport officials have a message for you: use the proper name, or else.

The “or else” part might involve a letter asking you to use the correct moniker – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Or Hartsfield-Jackson, if you must.

But the airport is more commonly known to many as Hartsfield, to the chagrin of Maynard Jackson’s family. That’s why the airport says it worked closely with Valerie Jackson, the widow of the city’s first black mayor, in developing a plan to promote the correct usage of the two-mayor airport name.

The Atlanta City Council earlier this year caught wind of the years-old trend of dropping “Jackson” from the airport’s name, and of Valerie Jackson’s concern about the trend. In turn, the council passed a resolution tasking the airport with addressing the matter.

“The Aviation General Manager is requested to monitor and notify necessary persons to determine reasons why when using the name of the Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the name, ‘Jackson,’ is often omitted, not used or overlooked,” the resolution read. Former Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield developed the airport in its earlier days, while Jackson oversaw construction of the current terminal completed in 1980.

Branding campaign: Two Men. One Vision.

On Wednesday, airport general manager Miguel Southwell unveiled the action plan.

The airport is working with its branding consultant Jones Worley, which is working with Bigelow Advertising, to deploy a three-phased plan to double-down on the name.

The airport is developing a branding campaign and has a new tagline: “Two Men. One Vision.”

But first, it investigated why the full name hasn’t fully caught on.

After 32 years, the name “Hartsfield” became ingrained in the minds of the public, according to Jones Worley president Cynthia Jones Parks.

“That is one issue we’ll have to overcome,” Parks said.

Social media encourages abbreviations, she said. And some travel industry websites were never updated with the new name.

Even the Federal Aviation Administration’s web page for flight status updates on Hartsfield-Jackson, for example, lists real-time updates for “The William B Hartsfield International Airport.”

‘I don’t believe this is a race issue’

Cynicism drives some to refuse to use the new name, according to the airport’s findings.

“The people that I’ve talked to have said they will always call it Hartsfield,” said Dale Hartsfield, a distant relative of the former mayor who has written a book called “What’s in a Name? A Historical Perspective of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, 1925-2014.”

Back in 2003, the renaming of the airport from Hartsfield to Hartsfield-Jackson came out of a racially tinged debate between a contingent that wanted to keep the Hartsfield name and another that wanted to rename the airport for Jackson. Then-Mayor Shirley Franklin pushed for a compromise using both men’s names.

Southwell says today, “I don’t believe this is a race issue. … This has always been a community of visionaries of all races.”

The airport plans to deploy its branding campaign in coming months as part of its broader half-million-dollar annual marketing program.

The first line of attack will be businesses, government agencies, and — gulp — the media. CEOs, travel industry companies and government officials will get letters or phone calls from the airport emphasizing the brand and asking them to be sure to use the proper name in training materials, websites and documents.

The airport plans to give out buttons, posters, magnets and decals to airport workers to encourage them to educate others on the airport’s name.

‘Talk about a waste of time’

Later this year, travelers can expect to see advertising in the airport emphasizing the airport’s history and the legacy of former mayors Hartsfield and Jackson, while also talking up the airport’s modernization and expansion plans. Giveaways such as buttons could also be in store.

But among the many who have never given a thought to the airport’s proper name, the focus on the issue by the city and the airport is perplexing.

“It’s ridiculous. … Talk about a waste of time,” said Brett Snyder, who runs a travel concierge service and blogs at CrankyFlier.com. “The reason people don’t use the full name is because it’s long and nobody cares.”

Snyder said airports are often renamed to honor someone, but “very rarely do people associate it with that person,” Snyder said. “Even JFK — when people say JFK Airport I don’t think they’re thinking about the president.”

But Southwell said the airport is taking the endeavor “extremely seriously.”

“The legacy is important,” he said.

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