TAMPA — Edelweiss Air announced Friday that it will expand its nonstop service from Tampa International Airport to Zurich next year.
The airline, which now offers one flight a week each way, will offer twice weekly flights to Zurich, Switzerland, from March 2014 through October 2014.
Edelweiss began service from Tampa in May 2012, after Tampa International promised more than $420,000 in fee waivers and marketing dollars over two years, as well as promotion assistance from bay area economic development and tourism agencies.
Michael Trestl, director of strategy and network development for Edelweiss, said demand for the service has been strong. "All these people who were thinking we were not acting in a rational way have been proven wrong," Trestl told a news conference Friday.
Edelweiss flights have been more than 80 percent full over the past 14 months.
Trestl said the load on Edelweiss flights is indicative of the international demand for travel to the Tampa Bay area.
Visit Tampa Bay noted that of the 14.8 million visitors to Hillsborough County in 2012, 14.1 percent or 2.1 million were international visitors. That demand, Trestl said, is leading the airline to move beyond the incentive period, which ends next May.
"The entire community showed its commitment to making sure Edelweiss would succeed and Edelweiss is showing us they are committed to this community by extending its service beyond the incentive period," airport CEO Joe Lopano said in a statement.
Chris Minner, the airport's marketing director, said based on passenger fees and spending, the airport will earn a net profit of $125,000 from the deal with Edelweiss after the incentive program ends. "That's a 29 percent return on our investment," Minner said during Friday's news conference.
In addition, visitor spending in the region for the incentive period is estimated at $96 million, based on figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration.
Edelweiss will operate an Airbus A330-300 with 36 business class seats and 296 economy class seats in the main cabin. When twice-weekly service begins, flights will depart Tampa on Tuesdays at 4:20 p.m. and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. Return flights will depart Zurich on Tuesdays at 9:45 a.m. and Friday's at 1:30 p.m.
Edelweiss tested the twice-weekly schedule from July 2012 through August 2012.
Trestl said the success of that trial period led the company to decide to expand the service. After reviewing the performance from next summer's expanded schedule, Trestl said the airline will decide whether to add the twice weekly service to the winter schedule.