PIE IN THE SKY: St Pete-Clearwater Airport is flying high
The first time I visited Florida was a long long time ago. Disney World was only a couple of years old and I was relatively new to the industry, working for Adventure Tours. I flew into St. Pete-Clearwater Airport (PIE) to fill in for the vacationing Eileen Forrow, who then, at the very beginning of an illustrious career, was our rep at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater which was still owned by Jack Tar (it is now the Scientology Centre). I was back at PIE last week – what a difference!
On that first trip, the passengers disembarked the Nordair 113 seat Boeing 737 via the air stairs and walked across the tarmac to what I remember as a long low building. We waited there till a baggage truck pulled up and the luggage was placed on a long low table with built in rollers and pushed along. We grabbed our luggage, boarded the waiting coach and headed for the hotel.
That was then.
PIE is now a going – and growing – concern offering 63 non-stop, low cost routes on three scheduled airlines – Allegiant, Sun Country Airlines, and Canada’s own Swoop which currently flies from Hamilton (YHM) to PIE three times a week.
Allegiant is the prime airline partner at PIE. They began flying into St.Pete-Clearwater with 12 destinations in 2006, and currently operate to 58 destinations – the most non-stop routes in the Tampa Bay area. They have been ‘a game changer’ says Michele Routh, PIE’s Public Relations Director, who gave me a tour of the facility.
And not only is the airport now an attractive, busy facility, PIE consistently ranks in the top ten of US airports for domestic average airfare. In Q3 2022, it earned the top spot for the lowest average domestic airfare of the top 100 busiest US airports.
That same year, the PIE set its all-time passenger record with 2.45 million passengers and set individual monthly records eight out of twelve months. With the 63 non-stop destinations served by Allegiant, Sun Country, and Swoop Airlines, PIE serves up an exceptional value and customer service to its passengers.
Bright and beautiful
Not only is PIE thriving from a business aspect, the airport teamed up with the PGA Tours’ Valspar Championship held at Innisbrook Golf and Spa Resort’s Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, to unveil its latest Be Bright mural.
Ashely Cantero’s mural from PIE, joins four Be Bright murals across the country in Clearwater, Nashville, Tampa and Ruston, Louisiana. The Be Bright mural initiative allows Valspar
to use paint to inspire hope and joy through colorful images of the community.
“I am thrilled to share the beauty of our community through colour and creativity in the Be Bright mural,” said artist Ashley Cantero. “When visitors arrive, I hope the kaleidoscope
of color and geometric shapes inspire wonder and generate excitement as they begin their journey.”
In addition to Cantero’s murals, passengers walking to and from their aircraft to the airport building pass walls of bright and beautiful tropical murals.
Art is everywhere – appropriate for St. Pete where numerous art galleries, museums and murals are to be found in abundance.
Also on hand is St Pete’s justly famous Italian restaurant/store Mazzaros, the also local, Three Daughters Brewing, along with Dunkin, and the Sand and Sky Shop, thus offering plenty of choices for shopping, snacking or sipping.
There are several new innovations and upgrades planned for PIE but for me the most striking part of my walk through the facility was the attitude of the airport personnel. With no exceptions they were friendly, gracious and courteous. All had a pleasant greeting, and those who stopped to exchange a few words with Routh included me with a look and a smile. I spent 18 years working at airports, I have never come across such a pleasant congenial atmosphere among airport personnel – from cleaning staff to management.
St. Pete Clearwater is definitely doing something right.
Ed note: PIE IN THE SKY is one of the catch phrases used by PIE.
First published at Travel Industry Today