Tampa establishment hails TIA being awarded the right to have direct flights to Cuba

Today's announcement is the culmination of an effort led by a variety of community and business officials in Tampa over the past few years, which included targeting Mayor Pam Iorio to write the White House, which she did last summer to advocate that TIA get the opportunity to have direct flights to the island. Congresswoman Kathy Castor led the efforts going back to 2009, right after President Obama lifted travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans who want to visit their families in the island nation

Passengers must have close relatives in Cuba or must be involved in medical and agriculture business sectors; or traveling for education and religious activities. Airport officials say they expect to begin offering flights to Cuba by summer or early fall.

This afternoon officials with Tampa International Airport announced that they have been given approval to operate direct flights to Cuba, becoming only the 4th airport in the country to provide charter service to the Communist island, alongside New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

Airport officials were thrilled upon hearing the news. Joe Lopano is now the CEO at TIA:

"We are very excited to be named a new gateway airport for Cuba. This announcement will result in much easier and more efficient travel for our considerable Cuban-American community."

Steve Burton is the Vice-Chairman at the airport.

"I wish to thank the President and his administration for allowing more points of entry into Cuba. 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."

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