Quick. Name the cities that correspond to these airports:
John Wayne International Airport
Charles M. Schulz Airport
John Glenn International Airport
Many airports are named for celebrities, city officials and presidents: John Wayne, John Glenn, William B. Hartsfield and Maynard Jackson (wait, who?). But short of JFK in New York and Reagan National in D.C., most travelers, particularly international, don’t associate American celebrities and politicians with a particular region.
Take McCarran International. That’s Las Vegas to you and me. Hartsfield and Jackson? That’s two former mayors of – anyone? – Atlanta, now joined forever by a hyphen for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. What a mouthful!
When people book vacations or research conference locations, they look for nonstop flights to cities and regions and all the amenities they offer. They Google “Pittsburgh” and “Pittsburgh Airport.” Not Fred Rogers.
Instead of adding an individual moniker to our airport, of which many Pittsburghers would make a claim, (we’re STILL talking about Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series), we prefer to honor our local luminaries in more engaging ways.
On March 23, in conjunction with release of a new postage stamp celebrating the 50-year legacy of famed children’s television host Fred Rogers, Pittsburgh airport employees offered a fitting tribute to Rogers by dressing in red cardigan sweaters and tennis shoes, hosting giveaways in the Center Core and inviting travelers to write their memories of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on a large chalkboard.
The event was featured in USA Today , Travel + Leisure and other local and national media outlets. Mister Rogers’ famous cardigan and sneakers are now part of an updated permanent exhibit just outside the Kidsport play area in Concourse C.
CEO Christina Cassotis said the sentiments written by travelers during the event indicate how Mister Rogers continues to occupy a special place in the hearts of Pittsburghers:
“Thank you for brightening my childhood, Mr. Rogers.”
“You helped my self-esteem, and you are one reason why I went into early childhood education.”
“Your words still inspire us all.”
“When I was little, I wanted to be your neighbor.”
Cassotis said airport leaders certainly understand the feelings behind a recent effort to rename the airport for Rogers, but she said confusion created by the change would not benefit the airport or region.
Just as you might not know that Charles M. Schulz airport is actually in Sonoma County, Calif., travelers may not know that Fred Rogers International is in Pittsburgh.
And that wouldn’t be very neighborly, especially when officials are working hard to make sure everyone from Latrobe to Reykjavik knows all about the wonderful things happening in our revitalized region.
So, Pittsburgh International Airport will continue to host events and exhibits paying homage to one of our most beloved residents. But we’re going to keep our name just the same.
We think Fred would agree it makes us special, just the way we are.
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