Memo to Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano: This isn't Dallas. The folks back in Texas may not think twice of springing for upgraded airplane seats when employees travel on public business. But Tampa Bay takes seriously how it spends tax dollars, and Lopano's proposal to allow himself, Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board members and TIA executives to book pricey business class tickets for any flight over two hours just doesn't fly — particularly in the wake of a crushing recession. Lopano should drop the idea and spend more time back in the modest coach section — along with most of TIA's customers.
Current TIA travel policy rightly requires employees to book the cheapest available coach fair. But Lopano would change that for a select few. He proposes spending $10,000 to book business class seating, which can cost as much as three times more than a coach ticket, when flights last longer than two hours. Flying from the peninsula state, that amounts to nearly any flight north of the Carolinas or west of Louisiana.
Lopano defended the ticket upgrade on the feeble rationale that business class offers a more productive work environment. But as anyone who has traveled in the coach section can attest, there are plenty of cramped business travelers hunched over their laptop computers diligently attending to their duties. Why should TIA executives be treated any differently?
The five Hillsborough Aviation Authority board members are scheduled to vote on Lopano's dubious ticket upgrade scheme in October. The final tally ought to be a resounding "no." One of the expected nays should be board member and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who is known to be a regular coach passenger when he travels on city business.