U.S. DOT awards Tampa International Airport daily flight to Cuba

AP file photo

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that Tampa International Airport has officially been awarded a flight to Havana, Cuba. The Southwest Airlines flight will be daily and nonstop.

The official announcement comes after months of airports around the country vying for the opportunity.

“This is awesome. We’re thrilled to partner with Southwest Airlines on this new scheduled flight to Havana,” TIA CEO Joe Lopano said in a press release. “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.”

U.S. Rep. Kath Castor, D-Tampa, released the following statement:

“The Tampa Bay area continues to grow as an important ‘Gateway to Cuba’ and Tampa International Airport is leading the way. 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.  The Tampa Bay area has been at the forefront of President Obama’s policy of ‘engagement’ for many years and I trust that our community will continue to build bridges with the Cuban people for the benefit of our neighbors on both sides of the Florida Straits.  Hopefully, an end to the economic embargo is in sight, but in the meantime regular commercial flights will boost jobs and economic opportunities for the Tampa Bay area and our state. As more Americans and Floridians are able to connect with everyday Cubans, we will continue to improve communication, human rights and support entrepreneurs in Cuba and in Tampa Bay. TIA 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.”

In July Tampa was one of 10 cities tentatively approved for flights to Havana.

“Tampa to Havana is here! Southwest Airlines is offering daily nonstop service to Cuba! Thanks to US Rep. Kathy Castor and all who made this possible,” the airport said in a Tweet at that time.

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