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Tuesday, Sep 19, 2017
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It's now legal to use Uber, Lyft at Tampa International Airport

TAMPA — Getting dropped off or picked up in an Uber or Lyft is legal now at Tampa International Airport, and those ridesharing companies are paying the airport to do so.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board of directors approved contracts with rideshare companies Uber, Lyft and Wingz Thursday morning to drop off and pick up passengers at the airport. In agreeing to the contract, rideshare drivers will pay a per-trip fee of $3 for each ride beginning this month.

The board approved a new user fee system to charge limos, taxis and rideshare companies per trip at the June board of directors meeting. User fees for ground transportation is used at many other major airports, including Orlando International Airport. The fees will rise each year, eventually to $5 a trip, in the third year.

"This is a whole new frontier for airports worldwide because of the growing nature of ridesharing," said board member and Hillsborough County commissioner Victor Crist.

Tampa airport CEO, Joe Lopano agreed.

"As part of phase two of the expansion, we're adding more lanes for curbside because there's more drop off activity than ever before," he said. "We've already seen a shift in revenue from this. We've seen impacts in parking, though not so much in rental cars. We'll have to find ways to deal with that. Diminishing parking revenue is something we've factored in already."

Taxi services will begin paying the user fees sometime early next year, said airport spokeswoman Janet Zink, after the airport finishes installing technology to track cabs to implement per-trip fees.

During the August meeting, Lopano also received praise from the board during his annual evaluation – but no pay raise, like in previous years. Lopano's annual salary is $393,824.02, per an amendment to his contract that went into effect in October last year. On April 5, 2018, Lopano will receive another 15 percent pay bump.

Lopano did not push for a raise Thursday, despite scoring top marks in nearly every category from every board member for a final score of 4.96 out 5 on his evaluation. That's the same score he made last year.

"I'm very happy where I am," he said.

Previous Coverage: Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano gets another raise, to $393,824

Also at the meeting airport officials introduced a new police chief, Charlie Vazquez. He replaces Paul Sireci, who stepped down unexpectedly in January. Vazquez comes to the airport after spending 24 years with the Houston Police Department.

Tampa airport police chief and deputy chief step down

Board members also approved the airport's fiscal year 2018 operating budget. Airport officials are expecting record revenues and passengers next year, continuing an upward trend.

Total passengers for 2017 is expected to reach 19.5 million this year, and is projected to reach 20.5 million in 2018. Despite the master plan phase one $1 billion construction project this year, the authority is projecting to beat its fiscal year 2017 revenue budget by $1.4 million. The airport also expects to finish out the year $3.4 million below the expense budget.

With the increasing passenger growth projected for next year, the opening of the new rental car facility and of some new concessions, the airport is expecting to log a $14.5 million bump in revenues in 2018. Overall, operating revenues for 2018 are expected to be $230,976,228, a six percent increase over last year.

With the opening of the rental car facility and the SkyConnect train, the airport predicts expenses will increase next year to $132 million. Some of these expenses, about $3.6 million of them, will be offset through the use of customer facility charges, which is a $5.95 daily fee imposed on rental cars.

Capital improvements at the airport, aside from the $411.1 million allocated by the authority for master plan developments, will include $46.3 million for other capital projects, like airfield rehabilitations and developing new cargo facilities.

Cargo revenue is expected to increase by $1.2 million in 2018 thanks to increased cargo business from tenants like Amazon this year.

Passenger traffic was up 3.2 percent in May and 5.6 percent in June. Southwest Air carried 40,000 more people than a year ago, which was a 7 percent bump.

International traffic was up 7.2 percent in May and 12.5 percent in June. Lufthansa, which began direct service to Frankfurt, Germany, last year had 90-plus load factors for the month of June.

Frontier Airlines saw a 99 percent increase in passengers in June compared to last year. Airport officials said that's due to new service to Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Trenton from Tampa.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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