Say goodbye to T.F. Green. Say hello to Rhode Island International Airport.
The name change isn’t official yet. But with majority leaders in Rhode Island’s House and Senate (both from Warwick, the airport’s hometown) backing the legislation, it seems like all but a done deal.
The name T.F. Green may be a victim of the airport’s success: The number of direct flights has doubled since 2015, to 34 from 17;. passenger traffic rose 8 percent last year, helping reverse a decade-long trend marked by declines or stagnation.
Governor Gina Raimondo says state officials have heard from airlines that prefer a name that would be easier for travelers in other parts of the country to recognize. Raimondo supports the change, though she realizes it won’t be embraced by everyone. New Englanders love traditions. And this one, honoring the former governor and US senator, dates back to 1938.
So why are the likes of Norwegian and Frontier circling Warwick right now? Some credit goes to aggressive efforts by airport CEO Iftikhar Ahmad, who was recruited from New Orleans in 2016. There’s the new runway extension that opened last year, increasing the appeal for operators of larger jets. And don’t forget the incentives: A spokesman says marketing funds totaling $2 million have been provided during the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. (Landing fees, in some cases, were also waived.)
Another key factor: an initiative to rally the business community through a new group, the Partnership for Rhode Island. Members gathered data to help make the case for airlines to come to Green.
Passenger traffic is still short of levels seen in the early aughts. But maybe a name change can give the airport’s upward trajectory some extra lift.Jon Chesto is a Globe reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.