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Wed, Mar 09, 2011

Tampa Granted New Flights To Cuba

Reestablishment Of Tampa As Historic Gateway to Cuba

Tampa International Airport has been given the green light to accept flights to and from Cuba. The Airport has received its official approval Monday from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to operate Cuba flights.

TPA becomes the next gateway to Cuba in the U.S. following Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK) and Miami (MIA). Three licensed charter operators have formally indicated their intention to provide service to Cuba from Tampa which includes Air MarBrisa, Island Travel & Tours, Ltd., and ABC Charter.
The State of Florida, by U.S. Census statistics, has the largest Cuban-American population in the entire nation and the Tampa Bay service area is ranked second in the nation only to the Miami-Dade County service area.

“I wish to thank the President and his administration for allowing more points of entry into Cuba. The flights of course will assist economic development for both sides. But more importantly, the new policies will better enable the tens of thousands of Cuban Americans in our City to reunite with their families whom they may not have seen for decades,” stated Steven Burton, Vice Chairman, Tampa International Airport.

“The Cuba service reflects our vision of Tampa International Airport which is motivated by our commitment to the Tampa Bay community – keeping the needs and desires of our customers at the forefront of our air service initiatives,” stated Joe Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport.
The modified travel restrictions to Cuba state “purposeful” travel. Passengers must have close relatives in Cuba or must be involved in medical and  agriculture business sectors; or traveling for education and religious activities. The Airport expects to offer flights by summer or early fall.

"Tampa International Airport has received US government approval, but there is more work to be done," said Tampa Chamber of Commerce Cuba Flights Committee co-chair Jose Valiente. "Now we need to establish regular air service and help Cuban-Americans and businesses learn about the advantages of flying to Cuba through Tampa International Airport."

Tampa's relationship with Cuba dates back to 1539 when Hernando de Soto sailed from Cuba to Tampa Bay. As early as the 17th century, Cuban fisherman would frequent the Tampa Bay area on a seasonal basis, and, over time, the maritime connection became well established. In the 1850s Captain James McKay established regular commercial shipping service from Florida to Cuba through Tampa. In the 1880s Cuban immigrants established Tampa's Ybor City neighborhood as the cigar capital of the United States. On November 26, 1891 Jose Marti delivered his famous "Con Todos y Para el Bien de Todos" speech in Tampa. According to the 2009 American Community Survey, the Tampa Bay region today is home to approximately 91,516 Cuban-Americans, the third largest population of its kind in the United States.

FMI: www.tampachamber.com, www.tampaairport.com

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