Tessie Aral, president, ABC Charters, Inc., a carrier service provider (CSP) with authorization to provide Cuba service, has secured Cuba landing rights for Tampa International Airport. She provided airport officials with the news that Tampa’s first flight to the Caribbean island could start as early as Saturday, September 10, 2011.
“This is a monumental day. It took many people and many years working together to secure Tampa International Airport as the new gateway airport to Cuba. Accessing this vital international destination will benefit all of Tampa Bay with its economic impact and it is great news for our Cuban-American community,” stated Joe Lopano, CEO, Tampa International Airport.
The State of Florida, by US 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.
“ABC Charters is proud to facilitate the reunification of the Cuban American families in Tampa and the adjoining areas. They no longer will need to drive several hours to Miami, so they can visit their families in Cuba,” said Aral.
The Tampa Bay region in Florida is home to one of the largest and most vibrant Cuban American communities in the United States. There are nearly 140,000 people of Cuban ancestry living within 90 minutes of Tampa International Airport.
Tampa has always enjoyed a rich history with Cuba and continues to celebrate that heritage as an important part of Tampa’s culture. Although primarily known for the cigar factories in Ybor City, Tampa and its residents retain a close connection to its island neighbour. During the 1960s Tampa International Airport provided regularly scheduled Havana, Cuba, service aboard National Airlines with a pre-jet airliner DC-7B.
On March 7, 2011, the airport received official approval from US Customs and Border Protection to operate Cuba flights and now Tampa has Cuban landing rights.