17:08 PM

Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano announces his retirement

After leading the top-ranked Airport for more than 13 years, Lopano shared his plans at Thursday’s Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board Meeting.

Lopano Announcement 1

Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano, who has overseen a major multi-billion-dollar Airport expansion and brought significant international connections to the region, announced at Thursday morning’s Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board Meeting that he plans to step down before his contract expires in April 2025, allowing the Board of Directors to begin the process of seeking a new CEO immediately.

“I’m so proud of my team and all that we’ve accomplished over the last 13 years, which was much more than I set out to do when I started,” Lopano said. “While this has been my dream job, I’m now ready to pursue my next dream of spending more time with my wife, family, friends, and the many grandchildren who have come into my life recently.”

At Thursday’s meeting, the HCAA Board of Directors congratulated Lopano on his announcement and voted to:

  • Task the Board’s Finance Committee with leading the new CEO selection process and determining the framework and timeline of the search with the support of an executive leadership consultantJLopano HEADSHOT (CURRENT)
  • Keep the CEO search to internal candidates only, citing the expertise, community and industry know-how, and proven track record of the organization’s Executive Team

The selection process, which is expected to take several months, will help inform the timing of Lopano’s last day, which has yet to be determined.

"As with everything we do at Tampa International Airport, I want to look ahead to our future and be proactive in meeting the needs of this Airport and the Tampa Bay community,” Lopano said. “With the Board’s guidance and an amazingly talented staff in place, I have no doubt we’ll be in excellent hands as we advance our mission of fostering prosperity for our community well into the future.”

Under Lopano’s leadership, TPA and the Aviation Authority implemented a successful incentive program that attracted new international routes such as Edelweiss Air to Zurich, Copa Airlines to Panama City, Lufthansa (now as Eurowings Discover) to Frankfurt and Virgin Atlantic to London Heathrow. The Airport also completed several major expansion projects, including a new Rental Car Center and SkyConnect train system, the Blue Express Curbsides and a concessions redevelopment program that brought several local brands to TPA’s shops and restaurants. TPA is currently constructing the Red Express Curbsides and will break ground this year on a fifth new terminal, Airside D, to open in 2028.

The Aviation Authority, which manages and operates TPA and the county’s three public general aviation airports, finished this past fiscal year with record revenues and record passenger numbers, projecting an even stronger performance in 2024. The Airport was also named the #1 Large Airport in customer satisfaction by J.D. Power in 2022 and 2023, and has been a Tampa Bay Times Top Workplace for the past six consecutive years.

As a champion of innovation, Lopano has also positioned TPA to be an industry leader. During his time at TPA, the Airport was the first in the U.S. to launch on-site COVID testing for departing and arriving travelers, the first to build express lanes and the first commercial airport to host a test flight for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, or “air taxis.”

“Without question, Joe has built an incredible culture and legacy here,” HCAA Board Chair Brig. Gen. Chip Diehl said. “While his departure leaves huge shoes to fill, he has set us up for enormous success in every way possible, and we’re incredibly thankful for his contributions to TPA, to the state of Florida and to the aviation industry.”

Lopano is only the third CEO to lead TPA since the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority was established in the 1950s. George J. Bean served as executive director from 1965 to 1996, followed by Louis Miller from 1996 to 2010.

Lopano began his first day as TPA’s CEO in January 2011. Prior to that, he worked at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport for 14 years as Executive Vice President of Marketing and Terminal Management and held leadership positions at Continental Airlines.

Lopano serves on the boards of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council (2024 Chair) and the Hillsborough County Transportation Planning Organization. He is a member of the Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society and is a past Honorary Commander at MacDill Air Force Base. He has received several awards, including the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s 2022 Herman W. Goldner Award for Regional Leadership and the 2019 H.L. Culbreath Jr. Profile in Leadership award from the Tampa Bay Chamber. He was named 2021 Airport Director of the Year by the Florida Department of Transportation, 2018 Large Airport Director of the Year by Airport Experience News, and the 2017 Person of Vision by Preserve Vision Florida. He was Visit Tampa Bay’s 2015 Ambassador of the Year and received the 2015 Aviation Professional of the Year award from the Florida Department of Transportation.

“It’s been an amazing run, and I’m grateful for the privilege to serve as CEO of America’s Favorite Airport and have the support of this wonderful community,” Lopano said. “I’m excited to see what’s next for us, and look forward to assisting the Board and my team in ensuring the next generation of leadership can lead this Airport and organization to even greater heights.”

B-Roll of Joe Lopano through the years

B-roll contents

00:00 Groundbreaking for the Consolidated Rental Car Center (2014)

00:24 German consulate celebration (2011)

00:33 Ribbon-cutting for The Shoppes at Bayshore on Level 3 of the Main Terminal (2019)

00:42 Celebration for the relaunch of TPA’s Concessions program (2019)

00:50 Inaugural Virgin Atlantic London flight (LHR) with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss, Sir Richard Branson and Joe Lopano (2022)

00:59 Blue Express Curbside grand opening (2021)

01:07 Seattle inaugural flight with Alaska Air (2014)

01:15 New nonstop service to San Juan, PR, with AirTran and JetBlue (2011)

01:34 Launching partnership with Tampa Bay Lightning for a ticket giveaway (2011)