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Tampa airport seeing ‘widespread delays’ as Jacksonville FAA office closes

A case of COVID-19 exposure in Jacksonville is to blame, officials say.
The Marriott Airport Hotel, left, and the Air Traffic Control Tower at Tampa International Airport, photographed on Aug. 14, 2020, in Tampa.
The Marriott Airport Hotel, left, and the Air Traffic Control Tower at Tampa International Airport, photographed on Aug. 14, 2020, in Tampa. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jan. 4
Updated Jan. 4

Tampa International Airport and other Florida airports were experiencing numerous flight delays Monday evening due to the sudden closure of a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration office in Jacksonville.

Tampa’s airport tweeted Monday that the airport was experiencing “widespread delays” among flights into and out of the city, and that passengers should check with their airlines for updates.

“I know it’s causing quite a few widespread delays that will last through tonight and into tomorrow,” airport spokeswoman Emily Nipps said. “We may even have people staying at the airport tonight.”

Airports in Jacksonville, Miami and elsewhere tweeted out that they’re also experiencing delays. St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport’s arrivals and departures page showed delays there, too.

The delays are happening because the Federal Aviation Authority’s Jacksonville issue closed for a cleaning issue related to COVID-19, according to Nipps and a tweet from United Airlines.

“We’ve heard it was COVID-related, that a staff member tested positive, and they have to clean the facility,” she said.

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The delays are coming at a bad time for Tampa International Airport. Sunday was the airport’s busiest travel day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Nipps said, with almost 61,000 passengers passing through the gates. Another 50,000 were expected to pass through on Monday.

“It’s going to have a domino effect through tonight, much like where there’s a big storm through the north,” Nipps said. “It’s going to impact us through the night and most likely into the morning.”

Nipps said the airport has notified shops, restaurants and rental agencies that more people will be coming in later rather than sooner.

“We’re telling everybody that’s flying tonight and tomorrow, check with the airport before coming to the airport,” she said.