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Tampa airport launching new routes to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, more

United, Alaska Airlines and other carriers will add about 15 routes from Tampa this fall as the airport recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
A United Airlines passenger plane taxis on the tarmac moments after arriving at Tampa International Airport on Aug. 14, 2020, in Tampa.
A United Airlines passenger plane taxis on the tarmac moments after arriving at Tampa International Airport on Aug. 14, 2020, in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 14, 2020
Updated Aug. 14, 2020

Tampa International Airport’s business isn’t so high-flying these days, with a passenger traffic in July down 68 percent from the previous year.

But the airport does have some good news for travelers, in the form of 15 new and returning direct flights this fall — including several to desirable markets like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

United Airlines, which has warned up to 36,000 employees nationally of layoffs starting in October — including 109 at Tampa International Airport — will launch four new nonstop flights to and from Tampa in November and December.

The airline will launch flights to and from Boston, Cleveland and New York’s LaGuardia Airport starting Nov. 6. It will start a nonstop route to Milwaukee Dec. 17.

The new routes will nearly double the number of direct United destinations out of Tampa. Currently, the carrier flies direct from Tampa only to hubs in Newark, N.J.; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Houston and Denver.

Airline passengers prepare to check in at the tram for Airside A in the landslide terminal at Tampa International Airport (TIA) on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Tampa.
Airline passengers prepare to check in at the tram for Airside A in the landslide terminal at Tampa International Airport (TIA) on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

During the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority’s Aug. 6 board meeting, Chris Minner, the airport’s executive vice president of communications, said airlines remain “relatively bullish on Tampa,” and that the airport was losing seats at a lower rate than other major airports around Florida.

“We’re starting to see slight recovery back to growth again,” he said.

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United isn’t the only carrier planning to pump resources into Tampa International Airport this fall.

In November, Alaska Airlines will add new nonstop routes to Los Angeles and San Francisco, giving Tampa travelers another direct option for what are traditionally Delta routes.

“That would introduce new competition between those two carriers,” Minner said. “The west coast is going to see more traffic than we’ve ever seen.”

JetBlue this month launched new direct flights to Philadelphia, and will introduce new routes to Providence, R.I.; New York’s LaGuardia; and Washington, D.C.‘s Reagan National Airport on Oct. 1. Frontier Airlines will begin direct routes to Albany, N.Y. on Dec. 17.

A Frontier Airlines passenger plane, right, taxis near an American Airlines airplane, left, and at Tampa International Airport (TIA) on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Tampa.
A Frontier Airlines passenger plane, right, taxis near an American Airlines airplane, left, and at Tampa International Airport (TIA) on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020, in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Delta this month resumed direct flights from Tampa to Cincinnati, while Southwest resumed its direct route to Phoenix. Southwest will resume flights to Louisville, Ky. and Albany, N.Y. on Saturday.

“We anticipate we will see additional routes starting later in the year,” said airport spokesman Danny Valentine, “but airlines are still finalizing schedules and it’s too early to say with certainty.”

Hillsborough County Aviation Authority executives last week projected it would take three or four years for the airport to get back to its normal pre-pandemic business. For the fiscal year ending in September, they’re projecting a 40 percent year-over-year drop in passenger traffic, and a nearly $75 million shortfall in revenue.