Tropic Ocean Air to begin commercial service at Albert Whitted Airport in February

The airline hopes to expand service to several other cities.
A small airplane takes off from Albert Whitted Airport near downtown St. Petersburg last month. Tropic Ocean Airways, a private jet company, will fly commercially between the airport and Fort Lauderdale. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
A small airplane takes off from Albert Whitted Airport near downtown St. Petersburg last month. Tropic Ocean Airways, a private jet company, will fly commercially between the airport and Fort Lauderdale. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
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Tropic Ocean Airways wants to make getting around Florida easier for the Tampa Bay business traveler.

The Fort Lauderdale private jet company is bringing commercial air service back to Albert Whitted Airport staring in February with nonstop flights to and from St. Petersburg and Fort Lauderdale International Airport. It's the first of what Tropic Ocean Air CEO Rob Ceravolo predicts will be many flights coming to Albert Whitted, which for decades has only been a private general aviation airport.

Tropic Ocean will offer two flights a day — in the mornings and evenings — on Mondays and Fridays starting Feb. 1. The flights are intended to be a daily travel option for local business travelers who need to get to South Florida and return home the same day. The service could draw new daily or weekly international tourists from the South Florida market to Tampa Bay, as well, said Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Flights will start at $299 each way, though the Tropic Ocean website this week offered prices at $249 each way starting in April.

Depending on the success of the initial service to Fort Lauderdale, Ceravolo hopes to add direct service from St. Petersburg to Tallahassee, Jacksonville and the Keys next.

Tropic Ocean Airways has a fleet of seaplanes and private jets that land in tropical destinations usually only accessible by boat or helicopter. The company offers private charter services to Florida coastal destinations, the Keys and the Bahamas.

Starting in St. Petersburg, Tropic Air is offering scheduled service for purchase by the seat. Two pilots will fly a nine-seat Cessna 208B EX Wheeled to and from Albert Whitted.

There is some appeal for business travelers who are willing to pay more to avoid a regional airport like Tampa International or St. Pete-Clearwater International. The company says passengers don't have to wait in long security and customs lines when they fly on its chartered planes. Ceravolo, a former Navy Top Gun fighter pilot, founded the company in 2009. In addition to private charter flights, Tropic Ocean offers cargo and freight services and yacht charter services.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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