Lufthansa begins non-stop flights from Germany to Tampa

September 25, 2015

Yvette C. Hammett | Tampa Tribune
Tampa International Airport officials reveled Friday afternoon in a victory a long time in coming: the first non-stop Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to Tampa.
“We did it. And they said it couldn’t be done. That concludes my remarks,” Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano joked.
With that, he and Lufthansa CEO Karl Ulrich Garnadt high-fived.
With all the pomp and circumstance reserved for really big deals, the airport welcomed passengers from Europe with a Florida-style beach party, reggae band, even a live alligator.
On the other end of the international airside, a German band played as passengers prepared to head out on the same Lufthansa Airbus A340-300, headed to Frankfurt.
The Lufthansa flights, which will run between the two cities four times a week in winter and five times a week in summer, have doubled the airport’s international flights in the past four years.
“I’m really enthusiastic about Tampa,” Garnadt said. “We do very good business in Florida and we’re very excited about these flights. This is a good step forward for our business.”
Friday’s flight included passengers from all over the world, Garnadt said. “And already, October looks good for ticket sales” both to and from Germany, he said.
The new flights are exciting to passengers, as well.
Roger and Kristy Kaufman of Sarasota didn’t know they were going to be on the first non-stop flight to Frankfurt from Tampa International Airport.
“We’re going to Italy to celebrate our 20th anniversary and now we can say we were on the inaugural non-stop flight for Lufthansa,” Kristy Kaufman said.
“We always had to go to Atlanta, then Frankfurt,” Roger Kaufman said. “This is so exciting.”
Sabah Saleem and Margarita Brudel had to fly in to Tampa from Germany via Washington, D.C., after which they toured Florida, hitting Key West, the Everglades and Orlando before coming back to Tampa. For the return flight Friday, they were able to fly back to Germany from Tampa. “It’s much easier to fly home direct,” Saleem said.
Margot Calamaras, of Venice, who has family in Germany, said she’s been forced to make transfers in airports all over the U.S. trying to get to Germany from Tampa in the past.
“I’m so thankful for this and for my family, when they come visit, too.”
Those coming in from Frankfurt, too, said they were ecstatic to have a direct flight to Tampa.
“No transfers? It’s great,” said Reinhard Schoepf, who flew from Munich to Frankfurt, then Tampa with his wife, Ursula Schoepf.
Renada Kapcio lives in this area but just returned from Poland, via Frankfurt, dropping her son at medical school in Krakow. “It’s a blessing to have this direct flight. We’ve been waiting for this for 25 years,” she said.
Lufthansa is Germany’s largest airline and considered one of the most financially successful in the world. The airline expects to transport 60,000-65,000 people each way on the new non-stop flights each year.
A deal nearly a decade in the making, the new flights to and from Frankfurt are not only expected to bolster tourism here but open up more business travel for companies that do business in both countries.
“These flights will help us grow jobs, and the 75 to 100 German companies that do business here say air service is a huge issue,” said Rick Homans, President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp.
On Friday’s inaugural flight, alone, he said, were the CEOs of two large companies.
The airline received $1 million in incentives from Tampa International to begin non-stop flights here, including the waiving of all airport fees.
The 10.5-hour flight from Tampa connects travelers with 65 countries and 147 cities in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
As of Friday, round trip tickets to Frankfurt on Lufthansa from Tampa International Airport were selling for between $825 for an economy seat to about $2,230 for more plush accommodations.