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British Airways, International flights and Tampa International

May 23, 2011

It is good to see that the recently expanded British Airways service to London Gatwick from TIA is doing well.   That is very encouraging and, it should be noted, came with an agreement by the airport to lower fees and help marketing and happened a few months after the previous director left TIA. (see here and here) – not to mention expanded service to San Juan, Puerto Rico

Tampasphere is well aware that all this raises a question about the previous efforts to bring international service to TIA – which is critical to keeping the Tampa Bay area competitive.  While what happened in the past is in the past and we should look forward, it is also true that reviewing previous efforts is helpful looking forward, as TIA works to expand international flights. So a few of observations:

It is commonly said that flights come to an airport based on demand.  That is certainly true, but there are various questions about how demand is defined and, like most people and companies, airlines also go where they feel wanted. Moreover, demand can be built.

There is the question of incentives (let’s use this definition: “Incentives take a variety of forms: advertising to promote new flights, waivers of airport fees, guarantees that a certain number of seats will be sold.”), which the previous director publicly opposed (see here and here), but, as seen in the British Airways expansion of service, can be helpful.  Reports going back years indicate that the previous director wanted to expand British airways service but, as noted above, publicly opposed any sort of incentive.  Almost immediately after he left, the airport gave relatively meager incentives  and got the expanded London service.  (Strangely, that director actually gave these kind of incentives for the inexplicable and ill-fated Cancun service [what, it suddenly got hard to find beach resorts in Florida? Why not a hub at Mexico City?])  Moreover, with the apparent success (obviously, it is early in the service and things could change, but the numbers are encouraging) of the expanded London service,  there is support for the argument that incentives up front helps bring service that unlocks demand.  Tampasphere does not know how the British Airways discussions went, but, the point is that concessions/incentives are a critical part of the toolkit in attracting new service (international and domestic – such as San Francisco) that, if targeted intelligently, can unlock pent up demand and help the airport serve its proper role as a major catalyst for the Bay area’s economy.

As for if there is demand. That seems to turn on how you look at it and when.  For instance, at one point, it seems there was definitely sufficient demand for a flight to Frankfurt.  Then, there was not.   Tampasphere is not sure what happened and is not going to speculate – there are a number of possibilities.  The important thing is the TIA has the proper numbers now – including O&D and transfer passengers (like Orlando considers) and that the proper questions are asked and answered honestly.

Finally, Tampasphere applauds the new director for going to Panama and for seeking other service to important locations (see here and here).  This is the type of aggressive approach that the Bay Area needs at the airport, at the port, and in development of the area generally.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Franklin Stubbs permalink
    May 24, 2011 9:08 PM

    Good points. Link to your next article. We have no direct flights to Panama. Copa flies four direct/non-stops to and from Panama City daily out of Orlando. We have zero. The former leader of the airport consistently denied there was demand, and therefore never offered to assist in attracting any of those flights. The new Mayor and Airport direcotr have already been to Panama once to visit with Copa, and I understand they are very receptive. Many people drive to Orlando to avoid the hassles with Miami (American), Houston (Continental), and Atlanta (Delta). Tampa is missing out on a huge opportunit.

  2. May 25, 2011 8:02 AM

    We would also like to point out that the expanded British Airways service came at the same time that Orlando lost some British Airways flights.

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