02/01/13 - The Tampa Tribune (Estados Unidos) - Tour operator says Tampa-Cuba flights need more promotion
Tur-operador dice que los vuelos entre Tampa y Cuba necesitan más promoción.
por Ted Jackovics
1 de febrero de 2013
It took nearly three years to win federal approval for charter flights between Tampa International Airport and Cuba.
Since the flights began in late 2011, one of the three Cuba charter carriers is leaving Tampa, a second is dropping one of its two weekly flights and the third is maintaining two weekly flights but losing money.
Those difficulties have prompted one of the carriers to seek assistance: Have Tampa International create a marketing program that would promote the Tampa-Cuba flights in cities with nonstop flights to Tampa.
The marketing message: Going to Cuba? Fly to Tampa and catch a flight from there.
That would educate travelers to the option of using Tampa's airport as an alternative to Miami International Airport, which for years was one of only three U.S. airports allowed flights to the Caribbean nation, said Bill Hauf.
Hauf runs Island Travel & Tours Ltd., which flies between Tampa and Havana on Wednesdays and Sundays. "Hopefully the airport would allocate funds to promote Cuban flights for all carriers," Hauf said.
The carriers providing the Tampa-Cuba service have been able to fill an average of 80 percent of their seats on Boeing 737 jets, but the fares aren't high enough for the charter services to make money. Passengers currently pay slightly more than $400 for a round-trip ticket, not including baggage fees.
Hauf is covering competitive losses on the Cuba fights with his California real estate investments. He acknowledges carriers must charge enough to make a profit, but he said his marketing proposal would help all Cuban charter carriers and increase ridership on Tampa's domestic flights.
If Tampa International Airport were to spend money to market Tampa as a destination from which to fly to Cuba, it would be different from the airport's air service incentive program. That program was created with strict guidelines in June 2010 and is designed to encourage airlines to establish new international and domestic routes.
The program has provided $375,591 in airport fee waivers and $541,667 in marketing payments for five routes: a weekly Edelwiess Air flight to Switzerland; JetBlue Airways flights to New York's LaGuardia Airport and Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.; and Silver Airways flights to Gainesville and Jacksonville.
Incentives are a double-edged sword. Airlines like to take them but are quick to notice when others get a boost, with domestic airlines taking note of the New York and Washington incentives.
Airport officials on Thursday heard Hauf's proposal, but made no commitment to it.
"We have put a lot of effort into creating a new airport gateway to Cuba and the passenger response has been outstanding," airport spokeswoman Janet Zink said.
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