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Tampa-Seattle nonstop begins in June on Alaska Airlines

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TAMPA — Alaska Airlines will inaugurate daily Tampa-Seattle service on June 20, fulfilling Tampa International Airport’s longstanding goal for nonstop flights with the Pacific Northwest and gaining an airline renowned for its financial performance and passenger amenities.

The service announced Tuesday is expected to benefit the Tampa Bay region’s business development, leisure-related travel and discretionary trips for passengers who currently must change planes on coast-to-coast itineraries of more than seven to 12 hours.

The westbound flights will take 5 hours 55 minutes, departing Tampa at 6:30 p.m., arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 9:25 p.m. Pacific time. Eastbound flights will take 5 hours 40 minutes, leaving Sea-Tac at 8:50 a.m. Pacific time and arriving in Tampa at 5:30 p.m.

The flights will use Boeing 737-800s , which have 147 coach and 16 business-class seats, with introductory $149 Web fares including taxes and fees.

More than 320 passengers a day fly between Tampa to Seattle, on various airlines including Southwest, United, US Airways, Delta and American and Alaska Airlines connections, the third busiest U.S. route not served by a non-stop flight.

“Our strategy is working,” Tampa International CEO Joe Lopano said regarding recruitment of the Seattle flight, along with recent new service to Panama, Switzerland, and Cuba. A start-up airline is planning intra-Florida jet service at Tampa later this year.

“To entice high-tech companies (to the Tampa Bay region), we need service,” Lopano said of the non-stop flights that can support established companies in the Seattle area including Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon along with entrepreneurial-oriented business that are a staple of the Puget Sound area.

The University of Washington in Seattle is ranked the nation’s No. 1 public university in federal research and training funds and among the top three in the United States, and was ranked 16th worldwide in China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University 2013 report of top universities.

The Seattle cruise industry’s sailings to Alaska draw 7,000 people annually from the Tampa Bay area, a figure the nonstop flights could help double, said Julio Soto, director of sales for AAA Auto Club South in Tampa.

D.T. Minich, executive director of the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he expected the Pinellas beaches to compete with destinations in Hawaii and Mexico for vacationers from the Pacific Northwest and will launch a major messaging campaign in the Puget Sound area.

“We are about the same distance from Seattle as Hawaii and we think we have some advantages over Mexico,” Minich said.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, which also serves Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction Among Traditional Network Carriers” in J.D. Power and Associates reports from 2008 to 2013.

Its pre-tax margins of 11.7 percent for the 12 months ended Sept. 30 are the third highest in the industry and its balance sheet has no net debt.

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