Parking and driving around Tampa International Airport just changed drastically.
Wednesday, the airport unveiled several new facilities, including a brand new Rental Car Center located in a very different location, and a new tram they’ve named the “SkyConnect.”
— Tampa Intl Airport (@FlyTPA) February 14, 2018
The SkyConnect system replaces a series of busses that was connecting the new Economy Parking area to the main terminal. Now the air tram, which runs along a series of tracks either above or along side the ramp to the airport, connects along three stops: Economy Parking to the Rental Car Center to the Main Terminal, which now has a Welcome staging area for SkyConnect passengers.
This means the Rental Car Center is no longer right next door to the main terminal, but the are is far bigger and has a waiting area similar to the main terminal, where you can even print out a boarding pass and check your bags before you get back on the SkyConnect to the main terminal.
SkyConnect is 1.5 miles long but it travels rather fast; the ride takes no more than 5 minutes from beginning to end, and train arrive at each station every two or three minutes.
“We’re making it more convenient, not just for our rental car customers, but for economy parkers and the general public,” said Airport president Joe Lopano in a statement.
While acknowledging the new features were nice, some new visitors to the airport told ABC Action News this morning they were not aware of the changes before coming to the airport, and were at times a little confused by the layout. There have been dozens of extra staff at each section of the SkyConnect on Wednesday to direct people when they got confused, sometimes wrongly getting off at the wrong area.
The new additions more or less complete what airport officials call “Phase 1” of a massive multimillion dollar expansion project. TPA served 19.6 million passengers in 2017, is expected to top 20 million passengers in 2018, and once all three “phrases” of expansion are complete, will have the ability to serve 34 million annual passengers, say airport officials.
“Today’s milestone reflects the upward trajectory of this city,” said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in a statement, who is also a member of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority Board. “As this Airport has grown, so has the city of Tampa’s profile on the international stage. That’s reflected by the doubling of the number of international passengers in the past seven years. The Airport makes a phenomenal first and last impression on those visitors.”