(TAMPA, FL) - Tampa International Airport hosted more than 300 airlines and airport executives in March for the annual Network USA conference. The event gave airports from all across the country the opportunity to make their pitches for new flights to airlines from all across the world.
As host of the event, Tampa International was able to showcase the airport's new direction and Tampa as a city on the move.
Conference attendees visited USF CAMLS, an international high-tech surgical training center, expected to draw medical professionals from across the globe.
"This amazing facility is a reflection of a change that's taking place in Tampa. It's a new Tampa, and a new Tampa International Airport," said airport CEO Joe Lopano during his conference welcome.
The delegates also visited the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, one of the region's top tourist destinations, and were treated to a gala celebration at the Tampa Museum of Art, overlooking the Hillsborough River and the University of Tampa minarets.
"This is my first time to Tampa. I think it's gorgeous – it's beautiful!" said Alaska Air representative Emily Knell while enjoying the view of the Tampa skyline.
The two-day conference included a keynote speech by Barry Biffle, executive vice president of Spirit Airlines. Biffle, Adam Green of Virgin America and John Kirby of Southwest Airlines led a panel discussion on the future of aviation and the business of flight planning. And then, it was on to the speed-dating portion of the conference, where airports sat down in rapid-fire 30-minute sessions with airlines.
Chris Minner, Tampa airport's vice president of marketing, met with 14 different airlines, including Alaska Air, which serves Seattle; AeroMexico; Copa Airlines from Panama, and Virgin America.
"We're certainly interested in continuing the dialogue with Tampa. We always enjoy talking with Joe and Chris and will certainly continue the dialogue even after we go back home," said Virgin America representative Adam Green following his meeting with Minner.
With the conference over, airport officials will continue meeting with airlines, delivering the message that Tampa International Airport is the Gateway to the West Coast of Florida, an airport and region on the move.
"Tampa is a very important city for Southwest Airlines and for many other carriers here," said Southwest Airlines' Patrick McDonnell. "It is definitely going to be a place of growth. Florida is a great place to visit and this is a great airport."