Tampa Airport Exec gets defensive on issue of international flights

There was apparently quite a little dust-up at Thursday's Hillsborough County Aviation Authority meeting.  But why?

Steve Burton is a managing partner of the Tampa law firm of Broad & Cassel.  He  was appointed to the agency  by Governor Charlie Crist earlier this year.

Burton apparently raised the ire of Tampa International director Louis Miller by proposing the creation of a committee to look at the airport marketing themselves to acquire more nonstop international flights.

Mayor and Aviation member Pam Iorio had Miller's back, calling the proposal "disrespectful" to Miller.

But the Mayor was on the losing end of a 3-2 vote to support Burton's motion.  According to the Tribune, Iorio also said,"Mr. Miller would be losing control of one of the best run airports in the nation."

As both the Times and Tribune stories reported, TIA has year-round international service to Toronto, London, the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico.

That's it.

How does that compare to the other major cities that Tampa is in competition with for domestic and international business, such as Orlando and Miami?

Well, according to an Orlando travel Web site, these direct international flights will begin in 2010:

  • Airtran - Aruba, and Netherland, Antilles Air Travel to Orlando Begins February 2010
  • Airtran - Montego Bay, Jamaica Orlando flights Begin February, 2010

And what about direct international flights that began this year from Orlando?

  • Air Canada - Airline service to Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • JetBlue - International service to Bogota, Colombia and Nassau, Bahamas
  • Martinair - Amsterdam, Netherlands Flights to Orlando Began October 15th
  • Mexicana Airlines - Flights to Florida from Mexico City
  • Sunwing Airlines - Airfare to Orlando from Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto Canada
  • Taca Airlines - San Salvador, El Salvador Airfare to Orlando Began November 1st
  • TAM Airlines - Orlando flights from Sao Paulo-Guarulhos Brazil
  • Westjet Airlines - Florida flights from Ontario and Winnipeg Canada

TIA officials insist it's all about Disney as to why they are so far ahead of Tampa regarding these carriers and their international flights.  But others disagree.

When contacted by CL Thursday afternoon, Steve Burton said,"I was surprised at how contentious the meeting turned out to be. The main reason I brought this up  was for the board to access information on what it is that  were doing, and what were not doing, and ascertaining what we could be doing."

We hope to follow up with more on this intriguing story.