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TIA's planning showed when Super Bowl fans left Tampa

Security checks boarding passes and IDs at Tampa International Airport on the Monday after Super Bowl XLIII.

MARTHA RIAL | Times

Security checks boarding passes and IDs at Tampa International Airport on the Monday after Super Bowl XLIII.

So many things can turn a flight home into the Travel Day from Hell.

An impenetrable traffic jam at rental car return. The ticket counter line that snakes forward an inch every 10 minutes. That confusing sign that sends you to some remote corner of an unfamiliar airport.

All that could have happened Monday as about 32,000 travelers — 10,000 more than on a typical day — descended upon Tampa International Airport to get out of town after Super Bowl XLIII. By all accounts, it didn't.

Southwest and Delta Air Lines, the airport's two largest carriers, had ticket counters open by 3:30 a.m. to check in the day's first fliers. The Transportation Security Administration brought dozens of officers from Orlando, so all 27 security screening lines were open at peak times.

That morning, officers and airline agents at Airside F handled 2,400 passengers in three hours — as many as pass through in a normal eight-hour shift.

Sure, travelers had personal crises, like always. Steeler faithful Dan and Edith Petrella tried to check in for their charter flight that was leaving from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International.

A guy named Matthew from Connecticut asked if he could fly without a government-issued ID — his driver's license, which disappeared Friday night at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino. No problem. Just expect a quick computer background check and some extra screening.

Maybe it's not news when Tampa International works like it should, for busy high-profile events or routine travel. But you've got to credit the airport staff for careful planning and attention to detail.

That struck me a few months ago in the parking garage over the main terminal. The clock by the elevators read a couple of hours late. Instead of letting the broken clock confuse passengers, workers covered it with a sign informing travelers it was out of order and would be fixed soon.

Think you would see that at Miami International or JFK?

• • •

A followup to last week's column about the proposed Passenger Bill of Rights. Continental Airlines said last week it adopted a key piece of the bill: allowing passengers to leave a plane that's been stuck on the tarmac for three hours or more.

Continental will "try to accommodate those who wish to deplane using air stairs or returning to the gate," the airline said. Not as strong as the legislation, but it seems like progress on the dicey issue.

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

TIA's planning showed when Super Bowl fans left Tampa 02/03/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 12:09pm]
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