As Spring Break Begins, Passengers Should Pack FL Airports

TAMPA BAY, FL – With coronavirus pandemic protocols relaxed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the first time in two years, officials at Tampa International Airport and St. Pete–Clearwater Airport expect heavy crowds with the official start of spring break this weekend.

Officials at the two airports say if the number of travelers who passed through the airports, located just 11 miles apart, in January and February is any indication, this could be the busiest spring break. never recorded.

Over the past few days, Tampa International has seen passenger numbers surpass 2019 totals, pre-pandemic international flights disrupted, by 29%, Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano said.

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He said the 2022 spring break period, which runs until April 26, will see peak days that could reach nearly 88,000 passengers and many will exceed 80,000 – also surpassing the 2019 spring break, which was a banner year.

By comparison, in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic was declared, Lopano said the numbers were “dismally low” in March and April and, in 2021, as the world continued to battle the impact of the virus, Tampa International saw about 65,000 passengers a day during peak hours.

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Lopano said the marked increase in passenger numbers over the past few weeks reflects the rapid return of combined travel demand to less fear as COVID-19 cases drop sharply around the world.

Like the United States, many countries have eased restrictions and testing protocols, especially for vaccinated travelers, and more attractions and tourist destinations have reopened with safety measures in place.

Lopano said Tampa is also seeing some of its international traffic return after British Airways resumed nonstop flights to London in November, Eurowings Discover launched flights to Frankfurt in December and, this week, Edelweiss Air resumed service twice weekly between Tampa and Zurich.

See related story: Edelweiss Air returns to TPA with non-stop service from Zurich

Tampa International also offers nonstop service to Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Canada, Grand Cayman and the Bahamas.

A piece of the cake

With the addition of new airlines and new nonstop flights to St. Pete-Clearwater International over the past year, PIE Airport Manager Tom Jewsbury is equally optimistic.

Allegiant on Friday launched a new nonstop route to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International from Akron, Ohio.

The new nonstop connection between Akron-Canton Airport (CAK) and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport will operate twice a week, providing landlocked residents of northeast Ohio the opportunity to easily travel to Florida to enjoy the beaches of Tampa Bay. Allegiant also added nonstop service from Wichita, Kansas in November.

“St. Pete-Clearwater is one of the most popular destinations in the Allegiant network,” said Drew Wells, senior vice president of revenue and network planning for Allegiant. “This new route will provide our Northeast Ohio customers with an affordable and convenient travel option for their vacation to one of Florida’s hottest markets.”

Additionally, in November, PIE hosted Swoop Airlinesoffering non-stop flights from Toronto and Hamilton, Canada, the first international flights to St. Pete-Clearwater airport since the pandemic began.

Also in November, Sun Country Airlines launched a new route from St. Pete-Clearwater to Minneapolis-St. Paul and Allegiant added a new nonstop connection from Wichita, Kansas.

The airport now serves more than 60 non-stop destinations, the most in its history. Before the pandemic, PIE had about 55 nonstop flights.

In January, passenger traffic at PIE increased by 48% compared to January 2021, with 143,414 people traveling to or from the airport.

If you’re planning to be one of those air travelers over spring break, here are some tips that might make your visit to the airport less stressful.

  • Parking: You can reserve your parking in advance at Tampa International with the easy to use online booking system this not only guarantees you a spot when you arrive at the garage of your choice, but it also saves you money. It also helps the airport anticipate parking needs during peak hours, making it easier to direct vehicles to where they need to go and reducing time for drivers to find spaces.

With additional traffic arriving at St. Pete-Clearwater Airport, expect all airport parking lots, including economy parking, to hit capacity grade. So think about arranging transport to the airport.

PIE car parks are open two hours before the first departure of the day and one hour after the arrival of the last flight. Cash, credit cards and debit cards are accepted. Long-term car parks are adjacent to the terminal within walking distance. The economy car park offers a free shuttle service to and from the terminal.

  • Mask up: For now, the Transportation Security Administration requires face coverings inside airports and on commercial flights, at least until March 18, when the mask requirement expires and the TSA decides to suspend or extend the requirement.
  • In the Bag: At Tampa International, choose Express if you are not checking baggage. TPA Blue Express curbs have been open since November, offering a streamlined route for arriving and departing passengers who do not need to check in their bags or stop at baggage claim.
  • Better early: During busy travel times like holidays and spring break, it’s always a good idea to give yourself extra time to avoid rushing or stressing out. TPA and PIE recommend arriving at the airport at least two hours before departure time. This is especially important if you are leaving PIE. Ongoing road and parking construction projects around the airport may cause additional delays.

If you are traveling internationally, both airports advise giving you an extra hour.

  • Take a tour: If you arrive early and have free time, explore the public artworks and shops at both airports.

TIA’s public art collection includes 22 woolen tapestries. The tapestries were handwoven by 20 women from Phumlalanga, Swaziland in Africa, under the direction of artists Ron Renmark and Michael Reck.

The main terminal’s ticketing level features 28 Cirkut images depicting the history of Tampa Bay by brothers Al and Jean Burgert, who opened a photography studio with their father in Ybor City in 1899.

There is also a tile collage of tropical fish by artist E. Joseph McCarty; 171 Polaroid images and 123 typewritten stories of Tampa Bay residents printed on aluminum by artist Sheryl Oring; a collection of seabird sculptures in copper, nickel, silver and bronze alloys by artist Roy Butler; and a huge floor medallion by artists Kristen Jones and Andrew Ginze made up of 22 pieces of glass and stone mosaic, to name just a few of the works on display.

PIE also highlights the history of the area with a replica of the plane flown by Tony Jannus in 1914 when he made the first commercial flight at Tampa Bay.

St. Pete-Clearwater Airport will be bustling with Spring Break starting this week and running through April 26.

The airport also features a 45-foot blown and painted glass room at the main entrance, as well as glass, wood, metal, ceramic, mixed media and paintings by renowned Florida artists in the whole terminal.

PIE also offers a Bark Park for on-the-go pets and a Kids Zone with a replica air traffic control tower where kids can practice taking off and landing planes.

TIA’s stores include Mindworks offering children’s toys and games; Tampa Bay Sports with authentic professional and college sports products; and Tampa Life, with gifts from the Dali Museum and the Tampa Bay History Center; Spanx, founded by Tampa Bay entrepreneur Sara Blakely; plus a version of Tampa’s famous Ron John Surf Shop.

At the PIE, passengers can purchase souvenirs, books and magazines at the Sand & Skye Shoppe and Market 361.

Both airports offer scaled-down versions of Tampa Bay’s most popular restaurants, including Mazzaro Italian Market, District Pub and 3 Daughters Brewing at PIE and PF Chang’s, Hard Rock Cafe, Cigar City Brewing Ulele and Rumfish Grill at TPA.

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