The wait is finally over for residents of the Tampa Bay area looking to fly nonstop to mainland Europe, thanks to the arrival of Edelweiss Air.
The inaugural flight arrived from Zurich, Switzerland on Friday, May 25, and was ceremoniously welcomed with a “shower of affection” water arch courtesy of Tampa Fire Rescue.
The arriving passengers made their way to the terminal to join representatives from the travel and tourism industry for a beach party, complete with a steel drum band, sandy beach and roving flamingoes.
Airport CEO Joe Lopano expressed his thanks to his marketing team and community partners representing both the business and tourism industries, as months of planning finally came to fruition.
“This is about Tampa going out and being aggressive about marketing,” Lopano said. “It’s about going out and trying to create jobs, and trying to create economic opportunity for our community and prosperity to our stakeholders.”
On hand for the celebration and champagne toast were Bob Rohrlack, President and CEO of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce; Kelly Miller, President and CEO of Tampa Bay & Company; D.T. Minich, Executive Director of Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater and Rick Homans, President and CEO of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation.
Captain Karl Kistler, CEO for Edelweiss Air, personally piloted the inaugural flight.
“Tampa, we are here!” he proclaimed after Lopano presented him with a box of hand-rolled cigars, a signature gift from historic Tampa.
Meanwhile, guests preparing to travel on the inaugural departure to Zurich were treated to a taste of Switzerland at Airside F, Gate 88. Alpine Echo, a featured entertainer at the airport during Swiss Month, performed their repertoire of traditional. The four-piece band played folk music that included an alphorn and cowbells, to get everyone clapping along.
Before departure, guests enjoyed a spectacular cake, which won the coveted “Cake of the Week” prize from the trade publication, Anna Aero.
Then just as it arrived, the Edelweiss aircraft departed through a water arch and flew off into the sunset, bound for Switzerland.