17:35 PM

International air service at TPA resumes with flight to the Bahamas

UPDATE: Effective July 22, the Bahamian government has closed its borders to international commercial flights and commercial vessels from the United States. For more details, please visit the country's official reopening website.

International commercial flights and commercial vessels carrying passengers will not be permitted to enter our borders, except for commercial flights from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. This will come into effect as of Wednesday the 22nd of July 2020 at midnight.

With the whirl of twin propellers, international flights returned to Tampa on Thursday following more than two months of suspended flights as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Silver Airways Flight 62 to Nassau, Bahamas marks the first nonstop international air service since mid-April. The Florida-based carrier will offer nonstop service to the island beginning at three times a week.

On Thursday's flight, fewer than 20 people boarded the 46-person plane.

For many, the flight meant a return home - and an opportunity to visit loved ones.

Tampa resident Tayesha Forbes was traveling with her husband to attend his grandmother's funeral. A University of South Florida student was visiting his family after being unable to get back when the semester ended. Another passenger was finally able to return home after COVID-19 unexpectedly extended a vacation for weeks.

A few others saw this as an opportunity to get away for a much-needed vacation.

“The travel and tourism industry has implemented robust measures to help build confidence in the traveling public again. We are thankful to Silver for investing in our market and trusting that we’re making the flying experience as safe as possible,” said TPA’s Executive Vice President of Marketing Chris Minner. 

Before you begin planning your Caribbean getaway, know that the trip comes with some restrictions. 

Travelers visiting the Bahamian capital will need to submit a COVID-19 swab test within 10 days of the travel date and will need to present an electronic health visa upon check-in to receive their boarding pass. 

The Bahamian Ministry of Tourism asks travelers not to fly if they’re feeling ill, to wear a mask while traveling and to practice social distancing whenever possible. 

Silver Airways has also implemented a number of enhanced cleaning procedures, such as deep cleaning of each aircraft after every flight, changing air filters more frequently and other in-flight procedures that help ensure optimal, clean air circulation. 

All Silver Airways passengers must also wear a face mask on the flight. 

“We’re excited for this flight to resume because it’s really the cornerstone of our operation from Tampa,” said Armando Ochoa Sandin, Silver Airways’ Station Manager in Tampa. “Nassau is one of our most successful routes, and we’re ready to get it back in our rotation.” 

The Airport has made international service growth a top priority for the past several years, but those efforts have been on hold since March. “We hope more routes will resume when the time is right, as they have a major economic impact on our region,” Minner said. “In the meantime, we continue working with our industry partners to ensure passengers see our commitment to safety throughout their travel journey.”

As part of its TPA Ready program, Tampa International Airport has increased cleaning with the latest sanitation technology, installed thousands of plastic shields and social distancing markers throughout the property, nearly tripled the number of hand sanitizer stations, and required the use of masks by all employees. Masks are also required for travelers, as mandated by the City of Tampa and Hillsborough County.

Upon arrival in Nassau, travelers should expect some changes in transportation, restaurants, hotels and resorts due to COVID-19. Taxis are limiting the number of riders, many restaurants will have disposable menus and socially distanced seating. Resorts will limit the number of guests in elevators along with other safety measures. 

See the Bahamas Travel Guidelines

To learn more about what the Airport is doing, visit https://www.tampaairport.com/tpa-ready.