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Proposal could mean discount parking rates at Tampa International Airport

A sale on parking at Tampa International Airport?

It could happen — and soon. A panel of top TIA officials started a wide-ranging review of airport policies Thursday to bring them in line with the aggressive business strategy of chief executive Joe Lopano.

Several were mundane and technical. But one change would give Lopano authority to temporarily lower parking rates to compete against off-airport parking garages and lots. Now, only the Hills­borough County Aviation Authority governing board can change rates.

"The idea would be to get as much business as we can," Lopano said. "It might be a coupon or something where you stay seven days and get one day free." The deals could run during peak holiday times or the travel doldrums between Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

The panel consisting of Lopano, general counsel Gigi Rechel and board members Steven Burton and Joseph Diaco will recommend which policy changes they want the full board to consider.

Travel rules for high-ranking employees could loosen considerably.

The agency's chief executive and vice presidents currently must fly coach or economy class for any domestic flight. Business class is allowed only for flights outside North America when the traveler must conduct business within 24 hours of arriving.

Under the proposed rule, high-level executives can fly business class for any flight over two hours. That would allow airport executives to get work done during their flights and arrive fresh, Diaco said.

"It's night and day difference between business class and coach," he said. "The old policy is outdated."

Another change would eliminate a requirement that the full authority board preapprove any travel by the CEO or board members.

Most of the current travel policy was passed in 1994 after the Times documented the extensive travel of then-chairwoman Arthenia Joyner and other board members.

Joyner, now a state senator, rang up more than $25,000 in first-class trips the previous year. She visited Paris, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the luxurious Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. Some meetings had no apparent connection to aviation.

The travel policy still outlaws first-class flights by board members and staffers.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.

Proposal could mean discount parking rates at Tampa International Airport 08/18/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 11:10pm]

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