Advertisement
  1. Business

Oh, how we love Tampa International Airport

Tampa International Airport's rabid fans came to its defense after a perceived snub. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Nov. 21, 2018

Tampa International Airport is so beloved that it even performs well in rankings for which it is not eligible.

Let me explain.

The Wall Street Journal recently came out with its first-ever list of top U.S. airports.

The scores were based on 15 measures of convenience, reliability and value, including on-time flights, security line wait times and an extensive reader survey.

Denver topped the list, followed by Orlando and Phoenix.

Tampa International didn't make the cut, but for good reason. The Journal looked only at the country's 20 busiest airports. TIA usually falls between 25th and 30th in passenger traffic.

MORE BUSINESS: Dear Amazon, Why don't you love Tampa Bay?

Despite the parameters, fans of the nation's mid-sized airports lit up the comments section and took to Twitter. They made it clear that they thought the list was bunk. They'd rather risk week-old potato salad than navigate Los Angeles International. Invasive medical treatments were preferable to New York's JFK or Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson.

The Journal captured the onslaught in a follow-up article that singled out the airports in Portland, Ore., and our own Tampa International as obvious reader favorites.

"Tampa Airport is hands down the best airport in the U.S. and the best that I have ever flown in or out of, and I have visited over 37 different countries," Journal subscriber Omar Garcia wrote.

Jose Yantas tweeted: "I'd take a bullet for you @FlyTpa".

We're split on our politics, and fisticuffs are likely at the mention of light rail. We can't even agree on a Bucs quarterback. But we're proud of our airport. There are few local institutions so universally adored. Maybe Publix or some of our waterfront parks.

Our airport ranks near the top of so many surveys that if it falls out of the top five we question the methodology and suspect some sort of conspiracy.

"This has no @FlyTpa in it?" Clayton W. Francis asked last week via Twitter. "This list is a farce and lacks any credibility."

In fairness, TIA doesn't have to deal with some of the challenges faced by bigger airports. It sees about 20 million passengers a year, a number that has grown consistently since the last recession. Still, that's one-fifth of Atlanta's 100 million. Los Angeles gets about 80 million.

Those types of numbers put tremendous pressure on an airport, especially the ones with little room to expand or little desire to spend the money necessary to keep up with demand.

Tampa International has emphasized user-friendliness since it opened in 1971. The backbone is its efficient hub and spoke design. Parking is close by. Until recently, the rental cars were just a few steps from the luggage carousels. Now, they are a quick ride on a new rail system.

The airport has modernized along the way, adding new airsides and updating existing ones to keep up with traffic and travelers' expectations, including more charging stations and better dining options. However you feel about spending $2 billion on the current makeover, it will help keep the airport near the top of the rankings, and something to brag about.

One oft-cited nit is the time it takes for luggage to reach the carousels. Most of those delays are due to lightning storms forcing baggage handlers to take shelter, spokeswoman Emily Nipps wrote in an email.

"There's not much we can do to deter the lightning," she said. "But we know it's frustrating to passengers, particularly when they can't actually see the lightning in front of them."

$35 MILLION: Is the Howard Frankland bike path worth it?

For years, the biggest criticism was the lack of direct flights, both foreign and domestic. Canada and London were about as exotic as it got. While the international lineup remains relatively light, it now includes Zurich, Panama City, Reykjavik, Frankfurt, Havana, Cancun and Grand Cayman. Amsterdam is coming in May.

Airport officials have also secured many popular U.S. destinations, including San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Salt Lake City. In just the last two years, the airport has added about 40 domestic routes, thanks to 17 from Frontier Airlines alone.

One conspicuous absence: Portland, Ore., with the other revered mid-sized airport. It's about time we connect these two standouts. Imagine all the happy travelers.

Contact Graham Brink at gbrink@tampabay.com. Follow @GrahamBrink.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  2. Snack-focused delivery app GoPuff launched in Tampa in February. It serves the area surrounding the University of South Florida. GoPuff
    Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Funyuns? GoPuff says it has the data for which snack Floridians love the most.
  3. "House Hunters," shot at a home in the Bayshore Beautiful area.  (Times | 2007) Tampa Tribune
    Whang, 57, was also a comedian and actress.
  4. The city is accepting applications for its Commercial Revitalization Program. The city has allocated $175,000 for the program this year.
  5. The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City officials are debating whether to make a short-term arrangement with the city two’s Largo stores this year so they can store their holiday inventory. City of Largo
    In the end, city commissioners say yes, with some reservations.
  6. More construction is on the way to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, thanks to $19.75 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to rehabilitate the airport’s runway. (Times file photo)
    The work is expected to be complete by spring 2021.
  7. Job applicants seek information about temporary positions available with the 2020 Census, during a job fair in Miami on Wednesday designed for people fifty years or older. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    The state added 22,500 jobs in August.
  8. Homeowner Cheryl Murdoch, 59, explains the workings of the Philips Smart Mirror in her bathroom. Murdoch and her husband live in the Epperson neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, home of the Crystal Lagoon, where some residents are piloting new health technologies inside their homes. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    In Pasco’s Crystal Lagoon community, AdventHealth and Metro Development Group are testing in-home technology aimed at keeping people away from the hospital.
  9. A company called Flock Safety is selling automatic license plate readers to neighborhood associations to cut down on crime, and Tampa neighborhood Paddock Oaks is one of their customers. Pictured is a Flock camera on Paddock Oaks Dr. | [Luis Santana | Times] LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Atlanta-based Flock Safety has provided 14 area communities with high-speed, high-definition cameras for surveillance.
  10. An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport for landing in March. Bloomberg
    The 60-year-old veteran airline employee told investigators he was upset that union contract negotiations had stalled.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement