Make us your home page
Instagram

TIA restores seasonal flights to Holguin, Cuba

Jesus Hernandez of Tampa fills out boarding documents at Tampa International Airport in order to fly to Cuba to visit family. ABC’s first chartered flight to Holguin, on June 11, is already fully booked with 135 passengers. A round-trip ticket costs $519.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times

Jesus Hernandez of Tampa fills out boarding documents at Tampa International Airport in order to fly to Cuba to visit family. ABC’s first chartered flight to Holguin, on June 11, is already fully booked with 135 passengers. A round-trip ticket costs $519.

TAMPA — Three months after the flights were suspended, Tampa International Airport announced Thursday it would host new seasonal flights to Holguin, Cuba.

Starting next month, ABC Charters will fly once a week to the east Cuban beach town, about 500 miles from Havana, airport officials said.

The flights will run on Tuesdays between June and August, and between December and January, to cater to summer and Christmas vacationers, airport CEO Joe Lopano said.

The airport lost two of its five weekly Cuban flights in February, a blow to an airport seeking to attract international travelers.

ABC Charters ended its weekly Holguin flight in February due to lack of interest, company officials said. And Xael Charters moved to Fort Lauderdale, where company officials expected less competition and more fervor for Cuban flights.

Tessie Aral, president of the Miami-based ABC Charters, said, "It wasn't the right time when we did it before. The demand wasn't there, but now the demand comes for the summer, with all the family members visiting."

ABC's first chartered flight to Holguin, on June 11, is already fully booked with 135 passengers, Aral said. The other flights in June are half booked.

A round-trip ticket aboard the chartered American Airlines 737-800 jet to Holguin costs $519, Aral said.

The airport now has two charter operators flying to Havana: ABC Charters, on Saturdays, and Island Travel & Tours, on Wednesdays and Sundays. Flights to the Cuban capital are sold out or nearly sold out through July, airport officials said.

More than 46,000 passengers flew to or from Cuba via Tampa International in the last year, including 4,000 in March, airport data show.

In September 2011, nonstop commercial flights from Tampa to the Caribbean's largest island resumed for the first time in 50 years.

Calling it a "very dynamic" and evolving market, Lopano said leaders in the young and rocky Cuban travel business are learning which flights offer the most lucrative business.

"Our operators, they understand the market so much better now," Lopano said.

More than 80,000 Cuban-Americans live in Tampa Bay, giving it America's third-largest population, behind South Florida and New York.

International business has proven a key factor in the airport's growth. While the airport served 1.8 million passengers in March, a 5 percent gain since March 2012, international passengers in March soared more than 13 percent over the same time period, and 43 percent higher than March 2011, airport data show.

New flights to Northeast unveiled at board meeting

At Thursday's meeting of the airport's governing board, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, airport officials also unveiled new nonstop flights to the American Northeast.

Beginning July 4, Frontier Airlines will begin twice-weekly nonstop flights aboard 168-seat Airbus A320 jets to Wilmington, Delaware. And beginning October 25, JetBlue will launch new nonstop daily flights to Hartford, Connecticut, expanding on the airline's flight growth last year to New York and Washington, D.C.

The airport's growth in passengers and the sagging cost of jet fuel are inspiring airlines to see Tampa Bay as "more valuable," Lopano said. "That helps people understand this market is the real deal."

Thursday's meeting was the first since board chairman Steve Burton, 52, died last month due to complications from heart transplant surgery. His leather chair was left empty.

Airport officials said they were waiting for Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a new chair. Board member and Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist said, "I got a call from the governor. He said he was going to make a smart decision, and make it very quickly."

TIA restores seasonal flights to Holguin, Cuba 05/02/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 2, 2013 9:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations rebound from stronger earnings report

    Corporate

    TAMPA — After a sharp drop in its stock price in August and September, Health Insurance Innovations on Monday announced strong revenue and net income gains in preliminary numbers for its third quarter of the year. The company also announced a $50 million stock buyback over the next two years meant to bolster its …

    After losing more than half its market value between August and September, shares in Tampa's Health Insurance Innovations are rebounding."The new share repurchase program underscores our confidence in our business strategy, financial performance, and the long-term prospects of our company while also allowing us the financial flexibility to continue to invest in our business," company CEO Gavin Southwell announced Monday. [Courtesy of LinkedIn]
  2. Trigaux: Campaign aims to leverage tourism ads to recruit millennials, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay's unleashing one of its best weapons — a cadre of successful entrepreneurs and young business leaders — in a marketing campaign already under way but officially …

    Erin Meagher, founder of Tampa coconut oil products company Beneficial Blends, is part of a group of business savvy millennial entrepreneurs and managers who are helping to pitch the work-live-play merits of the Tampa Bay market in a new marketing campaign called Make It Tampa Bay. The campaign is backed by Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and aimed at recruiting more millennial talent to relocate and stay in the Tampa Bay area. [Courtesy Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Visit Tampa Bay]
  3. Florida gas prices drop 25 cents on average over past month

    Autos

    Gas prices are on a downward tear post-hurricane. Tampa Bay fell to $2.34 per gallon on Sunday, down 10 cents over the week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Across the state, gas fell 7 cents over the same period to average $2.47 per gallon.

    Gas prices across the state fell 25 cents over 31 days. | [Times file photo]
  4. Entrepreneur expands interests with Twisted Crafts

    Business

    SOUTH TAMPA — Playgrounds of Tampa owner Mike Addabbo is expanding into the do-it-yourself industry with his new endeavor: Twisted Crafts.

     Jennifer and Michael Addabbo pose in their latest entrepreneurial enterprise: Twisted Crafts. Photo courtesy of Twisted Craft.
  5. Amazing Lash franchise expands to South Tampa

    Business

    SOUTH TAMPA — Jeff Tolrud opened the doors to his third Amazing Lash Studio franchise earlier this month, this time in South Tampa.

    When customers walk in, the studios have the same look and feel throughout the country, operator Jeff Tolrud said of Amazing Lash Studio. Tolrud opened his third in Hillsborough County earlier this month. Photo courtesy of Amazing Lash.