Make us your home page
Instagram

CEO Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport executives to fly business class

Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano says the executives who would get this privilege are expected to travel to raise $5 million in new revenue for the airport next year.

CHERIE DIEZ | Times

Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano says the executives who would get this privilege are expected to travel to raise $5 million in new revenue for the airport next year.

Top executives at Tampa International Airport traveling on business may soon get a perk that colleagues at other major Florida airports can only dream about: a pricey seat at the front of the plane.

TIA chief executive Joe Lopano wants to loosen Hillsborough County Aviation Authority travel rules for himself, his bosses on the agency's governing board and a half-dozen vice presidents.

Policy now requires that employees travel on the cheapest coach fare. The only exception is when they're flying outside North America and conduct business within a day of arriving. Then, they can ride in business class.

Lopano has proposed allowing board members and senior staffers to fly business class on any flight longer than two hours. That would open up the front cabin for trips to New York, Chicago, Dallas and most other domestic destinations.

Business-class tickets can cost three times as much as coach, sometimes more. Lopano said the new policy will result in 10 business class flights by staffers at a cost of $10,000 a year. He's counting on those trips to drum up new airline flights and help raise $5 million in new revenue budgeted for next year.

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

Nonsense, says Robert Price of Sun City Center in south Hills­borough County. As an executive with the U.S. Energy Department, he regularly flew coach to Europe and Asia. Federal rules kept him in a cramped coach seat for flights less than 14 hours. He still managed to prepare for meetings.

"It's not easy since they made the seats smaller and smaller," Price said. "It may not be comfortable, but you can do it. I think this two-hour (policy) is a joke."

None of Florida's seven largest airports lets employees ride in business class on domestic flights. Only Tampa International and Orlando International allow any air travel outside coach class, and that's only on long international flights.

The rest require that employees fly on the cheapest coach ticket available. Same for local governments: Hills­borough and Pinellas counties, the city of Tampa and Tampa Port Authority.

The Aviation Authority's operating budget comes from fees paid by airlines, rent from tenants and charges for people who park in airport garages.

The airport's proposal may include first-class travel. Network airlines — such as Delta, American and United — don't offer a separate section of the plane for domestic business-class customers from Tampa and many other cities. They call the front section first/business or just first class.

"Now, it's just cabin up front and cabin in back," said Markus Mittermayr, president of St. Petersburg Travel Center. The new policy would allow the "equivalent" of business class if there's no actual business class available.

The five members of the Aviation Authority board are schedule to vote on the proposal Sept. 1. Joseph Diaco and Steven Burton endorsed it last week.

"It's a night-and-day difference between coach and business class," said Diaco. "Our old policy is outdated."

Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist, who also sits on the Aviation Authority board, wanted to hear Lopano's rationale before deciding but said he's wary about new spending that people might see as wasteful. "My radar is up on this," Crist said.

>>FAST FACTS

Class cost differences huge

Business and first class can be three times as much as coach or more. Here are examples of fares on Tuesday for the different classes of travel booked two weeks in advance:

Tampa to Los Angeles

>> Lowest coach: $393.40 (Delta)

>> First class nonrefundable: $1,014.40 (Delta)

>> First class refundable: $2,357.40 (Delta)

Tampa to New York LaGuardia

>> Lowest coach: $314.40 (Delta)

>> First class nonrefundable: $675.40 (Delta)

>> First class refundable: $2,094.40 (Delta)

Tampa to Frankfurt, Germany

>> Lowest coach: $1,566.70 (US Airways)

>> Business class: $7,705.30 (US Airways)

Source: St. Petersburg Travel Center

CEO Joe Lopano wants Tampa International Airport executives to fly business class 08/23/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 10:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Former owner of Sirata Beach Resort purchases two Tampa Bay shopping centers

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — After selling the Sirata Beach Resort and Conference in February, Nicklaus of Florida, Inc., has purchased two Tampa Bay shopping centers to diversify the firm's portfolio in the area. Colliers International, representing the sellers, announced the transaction this week.

    Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center, one of Tampa Bay's last family-owned beach hotels, was sold to a Texas-based company, Crescent Real Estate LLC for $108.19 million. [LARA CERRI | Times]
  2. The Mill, independent and chic, looks to find its place amid Brandon's restaurant chains

    Retail

    Elevated cuisine might not be the first image that the Brandon dining scene conjures.

    The Brandon location features a bar with planned happy hour drink specials.
  3. Bucs and Bucks: HBO's Hard Knocks series boosts local businesses

    Business

    TAMPA — Men can enjoy yoga, including the most athletic ones. That is the message that the co-founder of Camp Tampa, a fitness studio located in South Tampa, wants to push after a few Tampa Bay Buccaneers players were shown practicing on HBO's television series Hard Knocks.

    Longtime hairstylist, Katie Ellwood styles Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander's hair last week at New Identities Hair Studio of Tampa Palms. The camera crew follows Kwon Alexander and other Bucs players during the team's training camp for the HBO show "Hard Knocks," a documentary television series about the ups and downs of an NFL training camp. [Courtesy of New Identities Hair Studio]
  4. Old Time Pottery adds store in Largo

    Business

    LARGO — A home decor and furniture store opened Thursday at 1111 Missouri Ave. N, according to a news release from the Central Pinellas Chamber of Commerce. This is Old Time Pottery's fourth location in the Tampa Bay area, joining stores in Kenneth City, New Port Richey and Brandon. The company, which has 41 …

  5. Tampa Bay has two new million-dollar ZIP Code areas — is yours one of them?

    Real Estate

    You might not be a millionaire, but chances are greater now that you live in a million-dollar Tampa Bay neighborhood.

    Tampa's ZIP Code 33606 is among the six bay area ZIPs in which at  least 10 percent of the homes are worth $1 million or more. This  Davis Islands home sold in January for $6.275 million. {Courtesy of Smith & Associates]