Our airport gets rave reviews from travelers. And justifiably so. Tampa International Airport is almost perfect. Yes, almost perfect. Few airports are as quick and easy to travel through as ours in Tampa. Tampa International Airport’s bathrooms have even won awards. But there are a few things that are still on my wish list that TPA needs to step up and address.

I know I’m going to get a lot of flack for doing this article. Everyone loves TPA. But if you’re one of those people who only reads the headline, that’s on you. Not me. I love Tampa International Airport. During my radio career, I’ve lived everywhere from Boston to San Francisco. TPA is by far the best home base airport ever. I love to travel so living by a great airport is crucial for me. You truly don’t appreciate how good we have it in Tampa until you have to fly home from your trip. Most other airports are overcrowded, have terrible layouts that make you walk far too much, and lines at security are a nightmare.

At Tampa International, as long as you check in online, it’s pretty common to get from the door to your gate in 10 minutes. There are some good dining options from local favorites like the Columbia Restaurant. Finding parking is a breeze and we have that new shuttle that zips you from the economy lot to the terminals in a couple minutes. New routes are getting added all the time. So what complaints could I possibly have about Tampa International Airport? After my trip to New Orleans this weekend, I noticed 7 things about the Tampa Airport experience that, quite frankly, suck.

Some of these issues can be easily fixed. Others might even be out of the airport’s control.

  • #7: Shuttles Down

    I don’t know when this started. And I don’t know how long it’ll take to fix the problem or complete renovations. But I’m tired of only one of the two shuttles to the gates working. Seems like I always walk up just as the doors are closing. When you look to the other side, there’s that yellow tape indicating the other shuttle isn’t running.

    Maybe it’s part of improvements they’re making. Maybe they’re cutting costs by only operating one shuttle. Either way, it sucks.

    UPDATE: An airport employee emailed me regarding this: “At TPA, we believe long lines and congested airsides negatively affect the perception of TIA and only create frustration within our guests. It takes about 45 seconds for one shuttle to arrive at an airside from the main terminal. Depending on how busy we are, we will disable one of the two shuttles simply to manipulate passenger flow at the airside, which can get overwhelming during peak hours of the day.”


  • #6: Arriving Delay

    Maybe it’s just me. But it seems like every time my flight arrives at Tampa International, the plane gets in early. That’s a good thing right? Not so much. Because of the early arrival, crews at the gate are not in place or there’s a wait for the previous plane using the gate to move out.

    There’s nothing more frustrating after a long day of travel than having to wait on the runway after you land. You probably haven’t been up to stretch and walk around in an hour or so. Chances are you have to use the bathroom. You just want to get out of the airport and back home to unwind. But no, you’re stuck in that seat for what seems like an eternity while the plane just sits there.

  • #5: Food Choices

    The food choices we DO have at Tampa International are good. Anytime I can get a 1905 Salad at The Columbia Restaurant, I’m a happy guy. But I just wish there were more choices – especially for fast food. It seems like other airports have far more quick service options than TPA does.

    In the main terminal before you head to your gate, there’s a Wendy’s. That’s cool. But the one I’d love to see most? When I was flying back from New Orleans this weekend, I was stoked to see a Shake Shack. C’mon TPA, they are in downtown Tampa already – get one at the airport!

    Shake Shack

  • #4: Lack of Lounges

    At most airports, once I get through security, I can look forward to relaxing in an airport lounge.  Because of the credit card I use, I get free TSA PreCheck to skip the lines at security AND membership to Priority Pass, a network of airport lounges that are not airline specific.  I’m not loyal to any airline. I pick the flight that is cheapest and will get me where I’m going fastest.  Airline-specific lounges are useless to me. Even tiny airports in South America I’ve been to have a Priority Pass lounge. But not Tampa International.

    With Priority Pass, you can sip on an adult beverage, nibble on appetizers, and relax in comfortable seats. Some Priority Pass lounges even offer things like a massage and showers.  But Tampa International doesn’t have a single lounge for Priority Pass members. All of the airport lounges are tied to specific airlines. It’s unlikely that’ll change anytime soon since lounges are usually located in the terminal after you pass security.  And with TPA, there are several different security checkpoints for each terminal.

  • #3: EV Parking Spots

    Look I get it. Most have not switched to electric cars yet. But look around – EVs are everywhere now in Tampa Bay. In the enormous economy garage, there are thousands of spaces. But there are only FOUR for electric vehicles. FOUR!

    Those 4 EV parking spaces are ALWAYS taken when I pull in. I’d love to come home to a fully charged car. But here’s why you should care even if you drive a gas car.

    Tampa International does NOT need to install the expensive level 2 chargers. Just put simple regular plain old electric outlets next to unpopular parking spaces on the upper level floors. You offer electric outlets for passengers to charge their cell phones in the terminal. Do the same in your garages in the less used, far away from the elevator parking spaces nobody else wants. That’ll leave more parking spaces for gas guzzling cars in prime spots and more EV owners will use your expensive parking garage.


  • #2: Breakfast

    I like picking the early flights out of town so I can spend the day at my destination. While morning flights are usually on time and get your day off to a good start, the lack of breakfast options is frustrating at TPA. Chick-fil-A is one option, but if it’s Sunday … well you know. Most of the dining spots at the airport open for lunch. I’d like to see more options for those of us who fly out in the morning. I’m not much of a Starbucks guy. But I think Tampa has to be one of the only airports in the world without a Dunkin.


  • #1: Connecting Flights

    There are direct flights to most major U.S. cities from Tampa International Airport. They even have service to small hometown airport in Portland, Maine. But about 2 years ago, I discovered Colombia. It’s become my new favorite place to visit. The color, the food, the music, the people – I am obsessed with it. Everything in Colombia costs about 1/4 of what you pay in the United States. For example, a 20 minute Uber ride will cost you about $3. A meal at a nice restaurant that would be about $50 a person here in Florida costs about $10-15 in Colombia. I’ve made some great friends there and HATE that I have to drive all the way to Orlando to get a quick direct flight.

    Flying out of the country from Tampa often means a long annoying layover that cuts in to your vacation time. For one flight to Bogota last year, I had to connect in NEW YORK! YES! I had to fly 2 hours NORTH and then 5 hours SOUTH. Meanwhile, if I fly from Orlando, I can get to Bogota or Medellin in about 3 hours.

  • Public Transportation

    #8 is a bonus gripe… because honestly it’s not really Tampa International Airport’s fault. But it sucks that there are no useful public transportation options to get to and from the airport. I live on the Pinellas side and it’s a pain to pay $12-$25 a day to park at the airport… or pay crazy Uber surge prices. Almost every major city in America has either a subway or bus system to get you to the airport cheap.

    Here in the Tampa area, buses do go to TPA. But especially here on the Pinellas side, the buses are useless. Buses don’t run to the airport on weekends or at night. And that’s when I normally fly. Even during weekdays, there are large gaps in time when the buses don’t run at all.


  • Rob's Gripe: CLEAR

    Rob Damiani passed along something I completely missed.  Tampa International Airport doesn’t have CLEAR. CLEAR uses your biometric data to identify you. You skip the line at TSA and go to a pod where they scan your boarding pass and your eyes or your fingerprint “clear” you. You’re then escorted to the scanners. It costs $189. Only about 50-60 airports have it right now, according to The Points Guy. Unfortunately Tampa International isn’t one of them.  I don’t have CLEAR.  And PreCheck seems to get me through security at TPA quickly as it is… so this one isn’t high on the priority list for me personally.  But I agree with Rob. It would be nice to have.

    Clear, Biometric Travel Document Verification System

    The CLEAR logo is displayed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on January 08, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

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