ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – There’s a migration south into Florida of snowbirds, and there’s one airline helping them get here. The first Swoop plane landed at St. Pete International Airport Friday, bringing Canadians to the Bay Area.

Add another stop to the destinations for Swoop, a service sorely needed after Sun Wing Airlines stopped flying into PIE.

“We’ve never seen anything like this. Like the water and everything. It’s just fantastic,” said Rose Moncada who’s visiting from Toronto.

Swoop airlines made its inaugural flight to St. Petersburg from Toronto, letting out close to 200 Canadians eager to experience the perfect Florida winter weather.

“As we come out of the effects of the pandemic, we can see our business grow and prosper, and what an amazing partner with St. Pete airport,” said Shane Workman with Swoop airlines.

Swoop wants to make coming down to Florida easy and affordable. Something the local economy supports.

“We were waiting to hear the big news about the fact of them opening up the borders or not and when we found out we go super excited,” said one business owner in Dunedin.

Business owners count on the international snowbirds. They keep things going until the warm-up in the spring.

“It boosts the economy. We get a lot of business, and just having them here is a huge blessing for us,” one business owner told 8 On Your Side.

It’s also helping the airport, as it reports still being down 10% from this time in 2019 before the pandemic hit.

“We’re glad to finally see the borders open. We have a lot of Canadians, as you probably know, with a lot of second homes here. We’re really looking forward to having them back into our community,” said Tom Jewsbury with PIE.

The airport is hoping to bring more international carriers, especially since some numbers show 3 million Canadians visit the Sunshine State every year.



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