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Florida Guide > Travelling

Tampa International Airport

Tampa International Airport is located 6km west of the business district of Tampa. Close by are numerous hotels and two shopping malls, the International Plaza and Bay Street. It is a modern airport designed with a central hub from where passengers are transported to satellite airline gates. This was a new concept when it was originally designed in the late 1960s. It is now the main hub for Gulfsteam International Airlines (Continental Connect) as well as being an important base for AirTran Airways and Southwest Airlines. The airport offers flights to 71 non-stop destinations, which include the UK.

TIA is the 26th busiest airport in North America, based on passenger movements. In 2009 it handled nearly 17 million passengers, and this is due to increase to 25 million once improvements in facilities are completed. It scores consistently high customer satisfaction ratings and in 2007 a Zagat Survey ranked it the ‘Best Overall US Airport. ’

Tampa Bay is important in the history of aviation, as it was here in 1914 that Tony Jannys flew the first scheduled commercial airline flight in the world. He flew from St Petersburg, Florida to Tampa, using a Benoist Flying Boat for the St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. In fact, Tampa International Airport was originally known as Drew Field Municipal Airport until 1952. Drew Field Municipal Airport dates back to 1928 when a deal was negotiated with a citrus planter, John H Drew who owned the land it was later built on. At the time it covered just 160 acres, six miles west of Tampa, but now the airport stands on 3, 300 acres.

During the war the City of Tampa leased Drew Field to the US Government, and it was here that 120, 000 combat air crew were trained. It was returned to the City of Tampa in 1945 at the end of the war, finally became Tampa International Airport in 1952, and within a year it was serving a million passengers. By 1959 the number of airlines it served had increased from 4 to 11. A year later the single runway was expanded to 8, 300 ft and jets began to land.

By 1971 a new terminal, designed like a spoked wheel, had opened which cost $85 million and took 31 months to complete. A year later passenger figures had increased by almost 4 million. Passengers were transported between the main hub of the airport and the gates via a people mover, using eight trains built by Westinghouse. The central Landside Terminal is where check-in takes place, and this is surrounded by four Airside satellites where passengers embark and disembark the aircraft. Each of these Airsides is connected to the Landside Terminal by the fully automated, driverless elevated people mover which was updated with 16 Bombardier CX-100 Shuttle Cars. Tampa International Airport was the first in the world to use such a system to move passengers. Of course, Orlando International Airport uses a similar system. In December of 1973 the new Marriott Airport Hotel was opened, with a revolving rooftop restaurant, triple paned windows and sound proof guest rooms it was the height of luxury.

By 1978 the runway had increased to 11. 000 ft to accommodate Trans-Atlantic jets. Over the years the Airsides and the Landside Terminal have been remodelled and refurbished. The four airsides, A, C, E and F have 62 gates. Each of these areas has a food court and gift shop plus outdoor smoking patios. Airsides E and F also contain duty free shops.

The current world economic situation has resulted in a postponement of significant additions to the airport and the runway. A second Landside Airside Terminal building was due to be begun in 2010, with completion planned for 2015. However, this may not now be needed as passenger numbers have not increased, rather they are in decline. The expected in crease in passengers to over 50 million by 2025 may not now happen, so the new terminal is unlikely to be started until at least 2015.

Tampa International Airport is a convenient and comfortable airport to visit. There are shops, restaurants, and free Wi-Fi in the main terminal, and there is plenty of parking with 20, 000 parking spaces available at the airport. A special colour coding system operates throughout the terminal complex. Thus the Baggage Claim Areas and Ticket Counters are colour coded Blue and Red. Airlines are assigned a colour according to their location within the Landside Terminal Building. Airlines found in the south side of the terminal are colour coded blue, whilst those on the north side are colour coded red.

To assist colour blind visitors these areas also have names such as Neil Armstrong and Amelia Earhart on the Blue side, and Igor Sikorsky and Chuck Yeager on the red side. Even the garage has a colour coding system for its elevator cores, with the orange lift core being named Wright Brothers, Purple named Tony Jannus, Green being named Robert Goddard, whilst the Brown elevator core is Charles Lindbergh. Economy Parking has two colours – purple and gold. This is designed to assist customers in remembering where they have parked.

From the UK British Airways flies direct to Tampa, whilst Air Canada, American Airlines, United, US Airways, KLM, JetBlu, Continental Airlines, Delta, Air Tran Airways, Cayman Airways, Continental Express, Continental Connection and Delta Connection are just some of the airlines that also operate out of this airport.

We aim to provide accurate and useful information, but if you feel anything provided here is not accurate or out of date, please email us with the address of the page concerned and any comments so we can amend as necessary.

Page added on: 16 October 2010
Viewed 3926 times since 16 October 2010.

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