1. Business

Tampa International Airport set to make 'major' air service announcement

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Published Feb. 11, 2014

TAMPA — Tampa International Airport said it will make a "major announcement" today regarding air service at the airport.

Such announcements in the past have foreshadowed big news at the airport, which in recent years has significantly broadened its portfolio of international routes, adding direct flights to Cuba, continental Europe and most recently Latin America.

The announcement was set to be made at a 9 a.m. news conference at the airport. Tampa International officials would not comment about the announcement.

In 2011, the U.S. government designated Tampa International as a gateway to Cuba, restoring air service between the island nation and Tampa Bay after half a century. Air travel between Havana and Tampa was interrupted by the U.S. embargo.

In 2012, Swiss airline Edelweiss Air scrapped its Orlando-to-Zurich route and announced a new nonstop Tampa-to-Zurich flight. It became Tampa's first direct flight to continental Europe in 15 years (British Airways already flew the Tampa-to-London route.)

The biggest announcement in decades came last year, when Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines announced that starting in December 2013 it would fly nonstop from Panama City to Tampa four times a week. Panama City is a major Copa hub with connecting flights all over Central and South America, thus connecting Tampa Bay to all of Latin America.

Tampa International has continued to target new routes internationally and domestically.

In the U.S. market, the airport has focused on persuading airlines to establish direct flights from Tampa Bay to two west coast destinations: San Francisco and Seattle. The Seattle route could potentially extend to Alaska.

Internationally, the airport has been in discussions with airlines that serve São Paulo, Brazil; Bogota, Colombia; Frankfurt, Germany; and Mexico City, Mexico. Air service development is why airport officials have joined Tampa Bay economic and political leaders on recent trade missions to Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Panama and Switzerland.