(August 31, 2016) The U.S. Department of Transportation on Aug. 31 announced its final decision to award Tampa International Airport nonstop daily service to Havana, Cuba on Southwest Airlines. The decision caps off several months of competition among several airlines that applied for the ability to fly to the Cuban capital.
“This is awesome. We’re thrilled to partner with Southwest Airlines on this new scheduled flight to Havana,” Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano said. “We have the third largest Cuban-American population in the U.S., so we’re a natural market for this service. We’re also fortunate to have a community of leaders who continue to show support for this important connection.”
Area leaders filed dozens of letters to the U.S. DOT docket expressing a need for commercial flights from Tampa to Havana and nearly 6,000 people signed an online petition in support of the flights.
“Regular commercial airline flights to Cuba from Tampa International Airport will improve travel for families and will boost economic and cultural ties between our two countries,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (FL14), who was instrumental in bringing the flights to Tampa. “TPA is a favorite among domestic and international travelers, and as the ‘Gateway to Cuba,’ I expect Tampa Bay will surpass the expectations of our region as well as travelers.”
TPA has offered charter service to Cuba since 2011 and the airport currently offers 11 charter flights per week. To date, more than 280,000 passengers have traveled to and from Cuba. TPA currently serves four cities: Havana, Santa Clara, Holguin and Camaguey.