Make us your home page

Tampa International Airport's international flights take another hit

With the skyline of Cancun in the distance, diners enjoy a quiet moment at Casa O’s on Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Visitors fly into Cancun to get to the island. Direct flights from Tampa have been tried, but airlines haven’t found the right mix for nonstop.

Lara Cerri | Times (2009)

With the skyline of Cancun in the distance, diners enjoy a quiet moment at Casa O’s on Isla Mujeres in Mexico. Visitors fly into Cancun to get to the island. Direct flights from Tampa have been tried, but airlines haven’t found the right mix for nonstop.

Tampa International's next international flight is stumbling out of the gate.

And that can't be a good sign for the airport's efforts to bolster its scant number of nonstop routes outside the country.

On Feb. 19, Delta Air Lines starts seasonal service to Cancun, the Mexican beach resort that's ground zero for college spring-breakers. Delta's dipping a toe in the water to test the market. The airline will fly only on Saturdays. Its original spring schedule ran through April — 11 flights total.

But recently, Delta called customers booked to fly in April with bad news. Their direct flights were canceled and they'd need to fly to Cancun and back with a layover at the airline's Atlanta mega-hub.

The reason: Faced with weak demand for tickets, Delta pulled the plug on all five April flights. Delta is still scheduled to operate Saturday flights from June 11 to Aug. 13, said spokesman Trebor Banstetter.

To be fair, Tampa Bay wasn't the only place with new Cancun service that underperformed. Delta also cut short Texas spring schedules to Cancun from San Antonio and Austin. Columbus, Ohio, was unaffected.

But maybe TIA has the Curse of Cancun. No fewer than six airlines have tried to make a go of the route since the 1980s. Spirit Airlines had to postpone service in 2005 when Hurricane Wilma wrecked Cancun's hotels. Spirit later tried daily and Saturday-only flights but left after a few months.

JetBlue launched daily fights in December 2008 with 100-seat jets. Ticket sales plummeted and JetBlue canceled flights as Mexico's swine flu outbreak grabbed headlines worldwide.

Questions about Tampa Bay's ability to support international flights could return if the Delta flights flounder. But there's a more important test on the way.

Tampa International claims just three year-round international routes, the most important of which is British Airways to London through Gatwick airport. The airline now flies five days a week but upgrades to daily service March 27.

Local business travelers gripe they can't reach major European and Latin American cities without flying through Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami or New York.

With daily flights, British Airways gives busy business travelers the flexibility they need. One statistic to consider: about 85 percent of passengers on the BA fights are Brits coming here on vacation.

It's time for business fliers here to put up or shut up.

Steve Huettel can be reached at (727) 813-8128 or

Tampa International Airport's international flights take another hit 01/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 9:35pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who's best global airline? Qatar Airways takes No. 1 spot but Delta tops U.S. carriers


    The good news? Delta Airlines tops all U.S. airlines in a new Skytrax global airline passenger satisfaction survey of the world's best airlines. The bad news? At No. 32, Delta still ranks behind dozens of Middle East, Asian and some European airlines. For Tampa International Airport and the major airlines that operate …

    Southwest Airlines, the biggest carrier at Tampa International Airport, improved its customer satisfaction rating among global airlines in a recent survey.
[Times file photo]
  2. Vinoy resort will ask St. Petersburg voters to approve new parking garage (with tennis courts on top)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment and part of that plan calls for building a new one-story parking garage over eight existing tennis courts.

    The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment. The Vinoy wants to build a one-story parking garage as part of that project, in place of eight existing tennis courts. The tennis courts would be moved on top of the garage, which would hold 270 parking spots. But the Vinoy needs St. Petersburg voters to approve the project in a November referendum. This is an artists' rendering of the new garage from the street. [Courtesy of Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club]
  3. House committee passes Florida-sponsored flood insurance bill


    The House Financial Services Committee pushed through a Florida-sponsored bill intended to cut flood insurance costs. If passed, the bipartisan bill would help create a marketplace for private flood insurance.

    A House committee passed a Florida-sponsored bill meant to lower flood insurance rates.
[Times file photo]
  4. 3 new restaurants open: Deccan Spice Indian food, Farmacy Vegan Kitchen, the Cake Shop

    Food & Dining


    Deccan Spice has opened at 2325 Ulmerton Road, in what used to be the elegant and vast Grand Siam space in Feather Sound. It's getting high marks so far for its traditional Indian lunch buffet, and offers a range of southern Indian dishes (vadas and dosas and idlis, oh my) seldom seen …

    Farmacy Vegan Kitchen + Bakery serves wraps, acai bowls, smoothies and juices and plant-based baked goods like strawberry cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Charles Rumph.
  5. The driver who died in a Tesla crash in Florida using Autopilot ignored 7 safety warnings


    When Joshua Brown's Tesla slammed into the side of a tractor-trailer last year at more than 70 miles per hour, the fatal accident became the world's first known car crash involving a partly autonomous vehicle.

    Tesla requires its drivers to keep their hands on the wheel even when Autopilot is engaged. A crash in Florida showed that the driver was warned to keep his hands on the steering wheel.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) TXTG101