Make us your home page

Fans of USA 3000 are sorry to see airline depart

USA 3000 captain Matt Baker performs a routine check between flights Friday morning at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. The discount carrier’s final local flight was Monday night. High fuel prices prompted the exit decision.


USA 3000 captain Matt Baker performs a routine check between flights Friday morning at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. The discount carrier’s final local flight was Monday night. High fuel prices prompted the exit decision.

Loyal customers were missing USA 3000 even before the popular discount airline's last flight took off from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport on Monday night.

In a time of widespread discontent with airline service, imagine this: an air travel experience that people actually like.

"The airport's more convenient than Tampa, it's very affordable, the planes run on time — it's just all-around better," said Theresa Schenk of Ann Arbor, Mich., as she prepared to leave for home Friday after visiting her mother in New Port Richey.

Her mom, Theresa Levinski, all but pleaded for USA 3000 to reconsider. "I know they have to raise prices, but the convenience is worth it," she said. "I'll buy stock in USA 3000."

Owned by the parent of Apple Tours in suburban Philadelphia, the airline said in May that skyrocketing fuel prices forced it to retreat from all Florida destinations except Fort Myers after the summer.

The news shocked officials at the small, quiet Pinellas airport, where USA 3000 was the second-largest carrier, trailing only Allegiant Air. Some 150,000 passengers a year flew the airline from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International, nearly one-third of the airport's total.

USA 3000's departure will cost the airport $1.35-million annually in airline charges and indirect revenue such as parking and concessions. That won't require staff cuts, service reductions or a slowdown in the ongoing terminal renovation, airport director Noah Lagos said.

But the loss leaves fans of the airport without flights to big-city destinations such as Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Allegiant, the only major airline left, flies to the likes of Allentown, Pa., and Chattanooga, Tenn.

Most travelers waiting for Friday's flight to Detroit resigned themselves to crossing the Howard Frankland Bridge to Tampa International Airport and buying a pricier ticket on Northwest, Spirit or AirTran.

"I could take a limo over there and that's $50 added onto the trip," said Stephen Hendzak, a retired environmental engineer for Pinellas County. He's accustomed to riding the bus from his home in St. Petersburg to catch a USA 3000 flight to Philadelphia each month.

Others pondered alternative routes. Maybe trekking to the airline's last Florida outpost, Fort Myers. Perhaps an Allegiant flight to Flint, Mich., or Toledo, Ohio, and a long, long drive.

Airport volunteers set up tables in recent weeks and buttonholed customers to sign a petition urging USA 3000 to reconsider St. Petersburg-Clearwater when fuel prices come down. They collected more than 5,000 signatures.

Lagos is trying to set up a meeting with airline executives to deliver the signatures and make a personal pitch. "I think we will see — make that we will see — them back again," he said. "We just don't know when."

Steve Huettel can be reached at or (813) 226-3384.


Passengers a year who flew USA 3000 out of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International


Percent of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International passengers who flew USA 3000


Weekly flights USA 3000 made out of the airport before it ceased operations


Annual cost to the airport of USA 3000's departure

Fans of USA 3000 are sorry to see airline depart 08/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 11:54am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  2. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  3. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  4. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]
  5. The Iron Yard coding academy to close in St. Petersburg


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Iron Yard, a code-writing academy with a location in downtown St. Petersburg, will close for good this summer.

    Instructors (from left) Mark Dewey, Jason Perry, and Gavin Stark greet the audience at The Iron Yard, 260 1st Ave. S, in St. Petersburg during "Demo Day" Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, at The Iron Yard, which is an immersive code school that is part of a trend of trying to address the shortage of programmers.  The academy is closing this summer.  [LARA CERRI   |   Times]