Make us your home page

Tampa International Airport CEO backs off on business class travel for executives

The boss at Tampa International Airport withdrew his proposed policy change that would have allowed airport executives to fly business class on domestic flights.

Last week, chief executive officer Joe Lopano introduced a revision to the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority's travel policy that would allow him, vice presidents and authority board members to ride in business class for any flight lasting longer than two hours.

On Thursday, a day after the St. Petersburg Times reported that none of Florida's seven largest airports let employees fly business class for domestic travel, Lopano said in a prepared statement that he was shelving the idea.

"After further thought and reflection, I am withdrawing my recommended changes to the Aviation Authority travel policy," he said. "The policy as it currently stands … will remain in effect."

Currently, all employees must fly on the cheapest available coach tickets for domestic trips. They can fly business class on flights to destinations outside North America when they will be conducting business within 24 hours of their arrival.

Business-class tickets can cost three times as much as coach tickets, sometimes more. Lopano said earlier this week that the policy would result in 10 business-class flights by staffers at a cost of $10,000 a year.

"I want my people to be more productive at all times," he said. "I want them with their laptops open."

The Times found that most major airports in Florida require that employees fly on the cheapest coach tickets available. The same goes for various local governments: Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the city of Tampa and the Tampa Port Authority. Only Tampa International and Orlando International allow any air travel outside coach class, and that's only on long international flights.

Aviation board members Steven Burton and Joseph Diaco said Thursday they still support taking the business-class proposal before the full five-member board for a vote.

"It's a good use of money and resources," Burton said.

Diaco, who early this week called the current policy outdated, wants the business-class perk for staffers but not board members.

"I think we need to revisit it after it's been tweaked a little bit," he said.

Tampa International is publicly owned. The Aviation Authority runs on revenue generated by airline fees, rent from tenants and the money people pay to park in airport garages. It doesn't collect taxes to pay for operations.

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

The cost of doing business

One of Joe Lopano's chief missions is persuading airline executives to add service at Tampa International Airport. That sort of wining and dining, and business travel generally, costs money. In Lopano's case, it adds up to $4,763.42 so far this year. Two examples:


Dinner with the AirTran Airways CEO and two other executives at the Capital Grille in Orlando, January 20

Included on the bill: steak au poivre, 14 ounces ($42), seared tenderloin with lobster ($45), 2 filet specials ($96), wine ($150), tip ($100)


Trip to New York to meet with Standard & Poor's officials, May 24-25

Included on the bill: airfare ($893.10, including change fee), Andaz Wall Street Hotel ($628.89 for one night), luxury sedan from airport ($109.05, $12.50 in tolls)

Tampa International Airport CEO backs off on business class travel for executives 08/25/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 25, 2011 9:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa is 15th-most popular city to move to with U-Haul


    TAMPA —Tampa is undoubtedly a destination point, at least according to U-Haul.

    Tampa is the No. 15 destination for people moving with U-Haul trucks. | Times file photo
  2. Florida's economy growing faster than other big states and far better than U.S. overall


    When it comes to economic growth, Florida's running alongside the leading states and well ahead of the United States as a whole.

  3. Westshore Marina District project takes shape with another acquisition

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — One of Tampa Bay's prime waterfront areas took another major step toward redevelopment Friday as WCI Communities bought 2.35 acres in Westshore Marina District.

    WCI Communities, Lennar's high-end subsidiary,has paid $2.5 million for 2.35 acres in the Westshore Marina District for 35 townhomes. WCI is under contract  to buy an additional 9.5 acres.
[BTI Partners]
  4. Posh Guy Harvey RV park to open in Tampa Bay with $250,000 cottages


    HOLIDAY — Love those Guy Harvey T-shirts with the soaring marlins? In the not too distant future, you might be able to kick back in your own Guy Harvey cottage in the first-ever Guy Harvey RV park.

    Renderings of the clubhouse and an RV cottage site of the planned Guy Harvey Outpost Club & Resort Tarpon Springs.
[Guy Harvey Outpost Collection]
  5. Port Tampa Bay secures $9 million grant to deepen Big Bend Channel


    Port Tampa Bay has secured a $9 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the widening and deepening of the Big Bend Channel in southern Hillsborough County.