(TAMPA) — In a major new partnership, Tampa International Airport and Lufthansa announced today the airline will add five-day-a-week, non-stop air service from Frankfurt to Tampa beginning Sept. 25, 2015.
Tampa International is the first airport on Florida’s west coast to offer the service.
“This is a huge win for the Tampa Bay region,” said Joe Lopano, CEO of Tampa International Airport. “Lufthansa is one of the best-run and profitable airlines in the industry and their investment in this community is testament to the strength of our international travel market.”
Frankfurt is the largest of Lufthansa’s five hubs, offering easy connections to more than 145 destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The service will operate using the Airbus A340-300. Flight LH 482 will leave the Lufthansa hub in Frankfurt at 11 a.m. and arrive in Tampa at 3:50 p.m. after a roughly 11-hour flight. The return flight will leave Tampa at 5:20 p.m. and arrive in Frankfurt at 8:45 a.m. the following day.
“For Tampa to continue growing our tourism and trade opportunities, we need to have more access to international markets. These types of announcements are critical to that mission and to raising our global profile,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “We are working collectively, as one community, to make Tampa the gateway to the world that it can be.”
The Lufthansa flight will offer 298 seats in business, premium economy and economy class, providing its latest cabin layout. Seats in the new business class transform into comfortable beds with a sleeping area of 6.5 feet. Premium economy class now offers more space and legroom. Passengers in all classes will have access to a wide range of entertainment, including an individual in-flight entertainment system and wireless broadband Internet.
“The airport’s triangle of partnership with tourism and business agencies drew Lufthansa to this region,” said Chris Minner, Tampa International Airport’s Vice President of Marketing. “It was a collective effort with a result that may mark a tipping point for global reach in our community.”
Key attractions to the region for Lufthansa are the close proximity to a number of locations for leisure passengers, including beaches, amusement parks, museums and golf courses.
“Germany has been one of the main focal points for development of international tourism in the St. Pete/Clearwater area. We’ve been heavily investing for decades in that part of the world and this signals a giant leap forward for development of the German and Central European travel market,” said David Downing, interim executive director of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater.
Santiago Corrada, the CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, said the Lufthansa flights will be pivotal in helping his agency hits its target of $30 million in tourist tax collections in the next three years.
“It’s another great tool in our tool box to bring visitors here,” Corrada said. “We’re committed financially and with sweat equity to making sure these flights are successful.”
Business leaders in the Tampa Bay region say the Lufthansa flights will help existing companies grow and attract new businesses to the area.
“There is significant commerce between us and Europe through Germany and there is pent-up demand in our business community to easily reach that part of the world. These flights will help meet those needs. This is huge,” said Bob Rohrlack, CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.
“Better connections to the rest of the world allow our business leaders to build the relationships and sell the products that will improve the economy of the entire region,” said Chris Steinocher, CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce.
“Germany is one of our most important international trading partners and a major source of foreign direct investment in this region,” said Rick Homans, president and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation. “Having nonstop flights from Tampa to Frankfurt will strengthen our international business recruitment efforts, facilitate expansion for German companies that already have a presence here, and further position Tampa and Hillsborough County as a top destination for global commerce.”
Pinellas County Economic Development Director Mike Meidel said the flights complement a three-county manufacturing job-training program with a curriculum based on the German skills model.
“The link to Germany is critical for making the most of this program,” Meidel said. “We’ll have non-stop flights and a work force with the kind of job certification the Germans expect in their employees. Those two elements will make our region more attractive to foreign investment.”
Lufthansa’s announcement comes on the heels of significant growth in TPA’s international passenger traffic. TPA saw a 13.7 percent increase in international passengers for Fiscal Year 2014 over the previous year. Since 2010, the airport has seen a 52.2 percent growth in international passengers.
Overall, airport officials project the number of passengers flying in and out of TPA to roughly double over the next two decades. The increase is one of the primary factors behind the airport’s current $1 billion master plan expansion, which extends the life of the current terminal and will accommodate more passengers.