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How Mosaic's relocation could help Tampa International Airport land a flight to Brazil

An airplane lands under heavy fog at Sao Paulo's international airport "Governador Andre Franco Montoro", in Guarulhos, Sao Paulo State, Brazil, in 2015. (NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Published May 18, 2018

Tampa International covets a nonstop flight to São Paulo, Brazil.

Mosaic Co, which is moving its headquarters to Hillsborough County, has huge holdings in the country, including several mines.

Could Mosaic's relocation help TIA realize its dream?

It won't hurt, said Kenneth Strickland, the airport's director of Air Service Development.

"Time will tell," he said. "Our job over the next several months will be to meet with Mosaic leadership to understand their corporate travel patterns and behaviors, which we can then share with relevant air carriers serving the Brazilian market."

Who is Mosaic: A primer on the new Fortune 500 company moving to Hillsborough.

Airlines need to be convinced they can make money on a new route. Part of the pitch comes down to how many people fly to the destination already, but have to stop somewhere else on the way. Another factor is how many travellers TIA could siphon off from nearby airports that already fly to Brazil, including Orlando.

Strickland said that the business argument for a São Paulo route is strong. The market benefits from a wide variety of companies with Brazilian ownership or ties, and the influential Brazil-Florida Business Council, based in Tampa. The key will be showing an airline that TIA can draw enough Brazilian tourists, who primarily fly nonstop into Orlando when they visit Central Florida.

"Airlines like to see strong balance between business and leisure travelers," Strickland said. "So in addition to telling Mosaic's story, we will continue to be tasked with working with our convention and visitor bureau partners to educate Brazilians about our incredible beaches, theme parks and cultural attractions."

A couple of other factors:

• Brazil's economy took a hit starting in 2014. As a result, airline passenger traffic between TIA and Brazil fell 51 percent in 2016, Strickland said. The numbers, however, rebounded last year, growing 26 percent.

That "allows us to pick up where we left off with these carriers, aided by a tremendous Brazilian business community here in Tampa Bay," he said.

• New narrow-body aircraft, including the Boeing 737 Max and the Airbus A321 NEO, with 150-180 seats can make the more than 4,000-mile trip between Tampa and São Paulo. In the past, the flight required a wide-body plane with 250 or more seats, Strickland said. It should be easier to convince an airline flying a 150-180 seat plane that the route is economically viable.

"The case for new air service between Tampa Bay and Brazil is growing stronger," Strickland said. "I believe if we continue to see year-over-year traffic growth in subsequent quarters, we will eventually reach a point to where air carriers will begin to see the potential for this service as well."

Earlier this year, Mosaic completed its purchase of Brazil's Vale Fertilizantes, which employed more than 7,000 people. Mosaic picked up five phosphate mines and one potash mine in Brazil, four chemical plants, and increased its interest in a phosphate mine in Peru.

The company, which announced Monday that it was moving its headquarters from Minnesota to Hillsborough County, did about $2.2 billion worth of sales in Brazil last year.

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

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