Posted on Wednesday, 07.27.11
Tampa airport to begin weekly charters to Cuba
Tampa International Airport expects to begin weekly charter service,
possibly as early as September
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
Tampa International Airport said Wednesday that the Cuban government had
approved its plans to begin offering charters to the island. Weekly
service is expected to begin in September.
"This is a monumental day. It took many people and many years working
together to secure Tampa International Airport as the new gateway
airport to Cuba,'' said Joe Lopano, chief executive of the Tampa airport.
ABC Charters, which will provide the Cuba service, said Tampa's first
Cuba charter flight may take off as early as Sept. 10.
"ABC Charters is proud to facilitate the reunification of the
Cuban-American families in Tampa and adjoining areas. They no longer
will need to drive several hours to Miami so they can visit their
families in Cuba,'' Tessie Aral of ABC said in a statement.
Previously, U.S. air charter service to Cuba had been restricted to just
three airports: Miami International Airport, New York's JFK and Los
Angeles International Airport. MIA dominates the air routes, with 153
inbound and outbound flights last week alone.
In March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection approved an additional set
of airports to host charter flights. They include Tampa and airports in
Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta,
Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Chicago, Oakland and San Juan.
A spokesman for Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport said
Cuba charter service is expected to begin soon.
Just because an airport receives U.S. authorization doesn't mean it can
immediately begin charter service. Landing rights must not only be
negotiated with Cuba, but there also must be enough demand.
"We're starting conservatively with one flight a week on Saturdays,''
said Brenda S. Geoghagan, director of public affairs for the Tampa airport.
The Tampa area has a Cuban-American population of about 140,000 people
living within 90 minutes of Tampa International, the airport said, but
has lacked air service to Cuba for almost 50 years.
"The economic benefit of nonstop flights to Cuba for our local business
community will help to strengthen our position as a growing
international gateway,'' said Bob Rohrlack, president and chief
executive of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.