Tampa International Airport celebrates 50 years

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa International Airport celebrated a big milestone Thursday — 50 years of serving passengers in the bay area.

Staff decorated the airport and surprised passengers with giveaways in the terminal for its anniversary.

TPA also debuted an anniversary video that featured passengers and their memorable moments at the airport.

The airport’s main terminal building opened to the public on April 15, 1971. Over the years, TPA has been a leader in airport innovation and earned acclaim as one of the best in the industry thanks to its layout, convenience and customer service excellence, according to a release.

“The guys 50 years ago who designed the airport really designed it around customers and not around airplanes,” said Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano. “Instead of walking a long distance to the plane, you take a train and it drops you right near your gate. That is the hallmark of Tampa International. And it wasn’t because of me. I’m enjoying it right now it’s because of the vision and the courage of these guys who came before us.”

The celebration is bittersweet after a tough year for the airline and airport industry. Tampa International experienced a 96 percent loss of passenger traffic because of the pandemic.

“It was a calamity. It was just craziness. In my lifetime I’ve never seen anything like it and I don’t think anyone alive today has seen anything like this,” said Lopano, who believes the industry will soon see a full recovery. “We’re coming from 4 percent of our traffic and we’re hoping by the end of this year we might come back to 100 percent.”

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