20:31 PM

Inaugural Seattle Flight Welcomed with Celebrations and Fanfare

(June 26, 2014) - Alaska Airlines landed the first daily nonstop flight at Tampa International Airport on Friday, June 20, and departed later that day with celebrations complete with cake, Starbucks coffee and dancing flamingoes.

Cheers on the ramp were heard from employees eagerly awaiting the arriving flight, ready to celebrate both the addition of the new nonstop destination from Tampa and a new airline.

A party to send off departing passengers at the gate included a cake featuring the iconic images of both Tampa and Seattle, Starbucks coffee, a jazz musician and the Alaska Airlines’ mascot.

Meanwhile, arriving passengers were treated to a “Welcome to Tampa Bay” beach party as they arrived in the main terminal. The beach party featured tropical music, beach balls and flamingoes direct from Busch Gardens.

Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano welcomed the enthusiastic crowd and stood alongside the community partners who gathered to celebrate the inaugural flight.

“Nonstop Tampa to Seattle! What more is there to say?” said Lopano. “Since we started in 2011 we have celebrated a lot of successes, because we are a team. We are in the economic development business. We want to create jobs and we want to get more money into our region.”

Lopano stressed the importance of the flight to the Tampa Bay business community and the long-awaited service to one of the county’s most underserved routes. Research shows that 350 people travel daily between Tampa and Seattle and that the community is ready to support the new nonstop service.

Tampa Airport’s Vice President of Marketing Chris Minner officially welcomed the new airline partner that is recognized as one of the highest in customer service.

“Alaska Airlines is an absolutely wonderful partner, with an outstanding quality of service,” said Minner. “We find so many people who travel on Alaska, only travel on Alaska. They have loyal customers who love that airline.”

After greeting the 162 arriving passengers at the gate, many already sporting their beach hats and sunglasses, Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater Executive Director D.T. Minich welcomed the estimated 30 percent of the travelers who are expected to continue on to vacation at Pinellas beaches. Other speakers who participated in the celebration: Alaska Airlines Regional Manager Karen Cannon, Visit Tampa Bay President & CEO Santiago Corrada, Tampa Hillsborough EDC CEO Rick Homans, St. Pete Chamber President Chris Steinocher, Director of Sales for AAA Auto Club South Julio Soto and Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board Chairman Robert Watkins.

“We were there to welcome to inaugural arriving flight and it’s great seeing so many families coming to the Tampa Bay area. We look forward to welcoming them and we knew it was just a matter of time before the Pacific Northwest discovered our award-winning beaches because ‘sunshine is the new caffeine!’” said Minich.