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  • Writer's pictureGotta Go Orlando

Inaugural TUI Flight From The U.K. Lands At Melbourne Airport

The first TUI Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner slowly descended into Melbourne on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.

The TUI jet touched down at 4:43 p.m. Tuesday, making history as Melbourne Orlando International Airport's first-ever transatlantic commercial flight.

The inaugural flight brought TUI's first passengers from Manchester, England, to the Space Coast. with the UK vacation-package company projected to fly in 135,000 tourists this year from seven cities throughout the United Kingdom.

"By coming into this location, all of the attractions over in Orlando are going to be a big part of what they're here for. But we also know that beach time — and starting next year, cruise opportunities with the same company — are going to really add value to flying into this airport," said Greg Donovan, airport executive director.

Different areas of the passenger terminal remain under various stages of construction. TUI's entry in Melbourne helped trigger the airport's ongoing $72 million overhaul of the outdated passenger terminal to accommodate Dreamliner-sized aircraft and the influx of international passengers.

TUI's initial passengers Tuesday checked into a white event tent set up outside the international terminal, then boarded idling buses and secured rental cars. Company officials said their Florida holidays will average 10 to 14 days in duration.

Each TUI flight will carry 300 to 345 passengers from the United Kingdom to Melbourne. Airport officials expect 11 flights per week through May 1, when flights will increase to 16 per week.

TUI's other participating markets are London Gatwick, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol, Doncaster and Newcastle. The tour operator will bring planeloads of visitors from the United Kingdom to Florida, not the other way around.

Tuesday's flight represented TUI's first flight to Central Florida since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The European travel conglomerate left Orlando Sanford International Airport and entered a seven-year contract to operate at Melbourne.

TUI's passengers can choose vacation packages at more than 100 Florida properties, including 20 Walt Disney World Resort hotels and five Universal Studios Florida hotels:

30% stay at a Disney property.

30% stay on International Drive.

40% are split between Universal, 18 villa options and other areas of Orlando, including Lake Buena Vista.

Brevard County officials hope to "capture" TUI visitors toward the tail end of their trips to spend time — and money — here. The Space Coast Office of Tourism has earmarked $200,000 to market Brevard to TUI's customers.

What's more, TUI's British cruise line Marella Cruises will debut at Port Canaveral next summer, offering voyages to New York; New Orleans; Charleston, South Carolina; Key West; and the Caribbean.

Melbourne airport officials celebrated in similar fashion in November when Allegiant launched nonstop flights to Nashville, Pittsburgh and Concord, North Carolina. Allegiant is Brevard's first low-cost airline since Spirit canceled operations shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis outlined his organization's $200,000 TUI marketing effort, which kicked off in January.

"They have a huge customer base in the U.K. that they speak with regularly. We're going to try to educate their customers that we're a new option for them now when they come to Florida, with all the amenities we have to offer," Cranis said, standing near the ticket counters.

"Secondly, they also own travel agencies. So we're going to be communicating with their travel agent network," Cranis said.

"There's a direct-to-consumer component, and then there's a travel-agent component," he said.

According to an airport press release, "TUI has already partnered with a handful of area hotels and anticipates new hotel partnerships going live this year."

Tuesday night, the Melbourne City Council unanimously approved hiring three extra firefighters to boost airport rescue-firefighting services in light of TUI's arrival. Cost this fiscal year: $126,802.

The increased firefighting staffing will let the airport meet Federal Aviation Administration service levels, an agenda memo said.


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