First flight from TIA to Panama takes off - WFLA News Channel 8

First flight from TIA to Panama takes off

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Passengers departing Tuesday morning will be treated to a celebratory sendoff with food, music, and dancing Passengers departing Tuesday morning will be treated to a celebratory sendoff with food, music, and dancing
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

It was all eyes to the sky at Tampa International Airport Tuesday. The first Copa Airlines nonstop flight to Panama departed just before 8 a.m. opening new travel and trade opportunities throughout Latin America.

"Having non-stop international flights is really good for our economy," said TIA Communications Director Janet Zink.

"We estimate that these four times weekly flights will have a $38 million impact on our regional economy."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was among the 150 passengers who woke up early to take the inaugural flight. 'This is a big day for us," said Buckhorn.

"We needed daily direct flights. We needed to be able to get our business leaders to Central and South America without having to go to Orlando or Miami. This will give us the ability to do that direct."

Airport CEO Joseph Lopano said it took 2.5 years to bring Copa Airlines to Tampa International.

"This is the beginning of the international phase of Tampa International Airport," he said at a press conference before the flight departed.

Travelers are equally excited about their new direct route to Latin America.

"I am so happy because we just have to go from here to Panama. No delays or waiting in the airport or anything like that," said Rosario Lubel, who was on her way to visit relatives for Christmas.

Senior Vice President for Copa Airlines, Joesph Mohan, says the company offers many perks which other airlines charge for.

"We don't charge for the second bag. We don't charge for food. We don't charge for drinks or alcoholic drinks," he explained.

"We have on board entertainment. So it's all of those things that somehow got forgotten in the United States.  We're still very customer focused and those things that our customers value and we don't believe that we need to charge for them."

Tampa is the ninth US market for Copa Airlines. The first plane arrived at TIA full of passengers around 10 p.m. Monday. Passengers departing Tuesday morning were treated to a celebratory sendoff with food, music, and dancing.


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