Tampa International adds third Cuba carrier
By Ted Jackovics | Tribune Staff
Published: October 15, 2013
TAMPA — Tampa International Airport will gain a third service providing
charter flights to Cuba by year’s end, the president of California-based
Cuba Travel Services Inc. said Monday, likely enhancing competition on
roundtrip air fares that currently average $400 between Tampa and Havana.
CTS flies between Miami and four airports in Cuba using American
Airlines and Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737-800 jet aircraft.
CTS has received permission for the Tampa-Cuba flights from the Cuban
government, but its filing with the U.S. Department of Transportation is
being held back because of the U.S. government shutdown, CTS president
Michael Zuccato said.
“We can’t advertise or sell tickets until we get DOT approval,” said
Zuccato, who added he needed to be cautious about releasing details of
destinations and schedules until that occurs. “ As soon as we hear, we
will make a formal announcement.”
Zuccato said his company set up an office in Tampa in 2004 with hopes
the Bush administration would add Tampa to the three U.S. airports then
permitted to fly Cuba charters. After six months without hearing about
its proposal, CTS pulled out of Tampa.
“Tampa has always been a market we’ve been interested in pursuing,” he
said. “It’s a good market, not just for Cuban-Americans (permitted to
visit Cuba under U.S. regulations) but for groups under the
That program allows certain U.S. groups such as those doing studies in
Cuba to travel despite the long-standing, strict U.S. regulations that
prohibit the general public from Cuba visits.
The new service will launch during a period when the two Cuba charter
providers at Tampa International are increasing service to Havana and
launching new Cuba destinations.
But it won’t be known for some time whether three carriers will create
excess competition similar to what forced XAEL Charters Inc. to
discontinue its Tampa-Havana flights and relocate to Fort Lauderdale in
“The Tampa-Cuba market is currently at a saturation point and adding 450
new seats (a week) is simply going to overflow the market and flood the
market with excess seats at the existing level of demand,” said Bill
Hauf, president of Tampa-based Island Travel & Tours.
“I hope it encourages better service,” said Tessie Aral, president of
Miami-based ABC Charters.
“I believe competition is always a good thing and in the end brings
stronger, better, improved service to the public,” Zuccato said.
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