Island Travel & Tours Ltd. soon will add a second round-trip flight between Tampa and Havana, increasing weekly flights on three charter services serving Tampa and Cuba from four to five a week.
The additional flight will be offered beginning July 4 and reflects both the success for Tampa-Cuba flights that began in September after a 50-year hiatus and the strength of summer demand for travel to Cuba.
"For the next six weeks, we are totally booked," said Bill Hauf, president of Island Travel & Tours, who opened a Tampa office on West Columbus Drive to support the Cuba flights.
Hauf said Tampa-Havana flights have averaged 106 passengers on the Boeing 737, which is normally configured for 142 passengers. Summer advance sales are averaging more than 134 passengers, he said.
Cuban-Americans carrying extra bags with items in short supply in Cuba sometimes restricts the numbers of seats that can be sold.
Hauf worked for more than three years with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and the previous aviation authority administration to get Cuban and U.S. government permission to launch Cuban charter flights from Tampa.
"Only Tampa and Fort Lauderdale have been successful in starting and maintaining new Cuba charter flights," Hauf said, referring to the January 2011 Obama administration policy to expand the number of airports permitted to have flights to and from Cuba. Previously, flights to Cuba had only been allowed from airports in Miami, New York and Los Angeles.
In addition to Island Travel & Tours, Miami-based ABC Charters offers a weekly flight between Tampa and Havana and a weekly flight between Tampa and Holguin, which is on the eastern side of Cuba.
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