The inaugural flight from Tampa International Airport to Reykjavík, Iceland, on Icelandair will take off just in time to miss Hurricane Irma.
The new twice-weekly flight from Tampa, which begins Thursday evening, will become the airport's fourth European flight in a growing lineup of international service. Icelandair is offering nonstop flights to Keflavík International Airport near Reykjavík, Iceland's largest city and capital. The airline is known for its stopover program, which connects U.S. destinations to more than 25 European ones, with a break in Iceland in between.
"Not only will this flight be attractive for locals who want to see Iceland or connect to Europe, it will draw more visitors from Europe and give them an easy way to visit Tampa Bay and see all we have to offer," said Tampa airport CEO, Joe Lopano. "This is a big step forward for our airport."
This is the Tampa airport's fourth international flight to Europe. The new flight, which was announced in October on the heels of the one-year anniversary of Lufthansa's nonstop flight to and from Frankfurt at Tampa International Airport. Similar to the Lufthansa flight, which has posted near capacity flight loads since it started, Icelandair's first flight of 183 seats are completely booked, Lopano said Thursday.
"It is very promising. Each gateway is different of course, but it usually takes a couple of weeks before we see a new flight become full," said Michael Rauchstein, a spokesman for Icelandair. "It's a very good start to have a full flight on the first day."
Tourism to Iceland has surged recently, driving new tourists from the U.S. and Canada to explore the country. The number of visitors is expected to grow by 40 percent this year in Iceland, surpassing the 1.3 million visitor record from last year. A study by the Icelandic tourist board showed that 90 percent of international tourists who visited the country during the 2015-2016 winter season said they are likely to return. American tourists made up the majority of the survey's international participants, doubling the size of travelers from England, which was the second largest group. The most popular destination listed in the survey was Reykjavík.
Since 2010, the Tampa airport has recorded a more than 125 percent increase in international passengers through new service to destinations like Switzerland, Germany and Panama.
"Icelandair is coming aboard during a time of immense growth and exciting developments at TPA," said HCAA Chairman Robert Watkins, in a statement. "In the past six years, we've strengthened the airport's world-wide reputation by adding nonstop flights to top destinations all over the globe and expanding our facilities to support new passengers. I'm very proud to chair the Aviation Authority board and be a part of this important time in airport — and Tampa — history."
With Thursday's announcement from Tampa, Icelandair will now offer service from 18 North American cities, which also includes Orlando. The nonstop flight from Tampa to Reykjavík will last around seven hours. It leaves Tampa on Mondays and Thursdays at 6:55 p.m. and arrives the following morning in Iceland at 6:10 a.m. Return service departs Keflavík at 5:10 p.m. on Sundays and Wednesdays with same-day arrival in Tampa at 9 p.m. Flights will run about $600 round trip.
The Tampa to Reykjavík flight will arrive in time to connect to more than 25 other destinations in Europe, including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, London and Paris.
Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.