Comparing Tampa Airports (TPA vs. PIE)

Getting in and out of the Tampa area means you will become familiar with the Tampa Airport, the international hub of the area, or you will visit St. Petersburg Airport, the local airport just a few minutes from the beach. These airports in Tampa both offer their own charms and amenities. Though most travelers don’t have much of a choice of which airport you go to – whatever option is cheapest is the choice for many – it is important to know what you are going to get out of each airport.

This way, you can better plan your trip and prepare yourselves in advance both for landing and departure. With that in mind, below, you will find all you need to know about both TPA and PIE.

Everything You Need to Know About Tampa Airport (TPA)

Tampa International Airport has been ranked 7th in the world and is an international hub with plenty of amenities. These amenities are so vast and plentiful that the airport has opened up day passes that will allow people in the area to shop and dine in the terminals for free without a plane ticket. You will still need to go through security, of course, but when it comes to buying great gifts for yourself or others or just enjoying some time dining at great restaurants, it can’t be beaten.

This pass also means that families can go with passengers right up to boarding like in the good old days and wave them goodbye as they board. There are restrictions, of course, and not everyone who wants to go will be able to, but it’s just one of the many features that will make TPA the more attractive option to travelers.

In fact, the only real downside to TPA is the fact that it is approximately 30 to 45 minutes away from the beach.

Places to Eat in Tampa Airport

There are plenty of places to eat in Tampa Airport, from fresh and adorable bistros and cafés to full scale sit down restaurants.

Great Shopping Opportunities in Tampa Airport

You will have a plethora of duty-free shopping opportunities from top brands, electronic stores, and souvenir shops alike.

Accommodation and Amenities

TPA features massage parlors and, most importantly, an on-airport hotel owned by Marriott. It is ideal for overnight travelers.

TPA All Access Pass

The TPA All Access Pass will allow non-flyers to access the terminals on Saturdays between 8 am to 8 pm. You will be able to dine, shop, and say goodbye to your loved ones during these times. You will need to go through security, and even if you have Pre-Check, you won’t be able to use it with this pass.

You will need to sign up for this pass at least 24 hours before you arrive, and though it is free to obtain, there is a limit to how many people can enter per day. At the moment, only 25 non-passengers with the TPA All Access Pass can enter each airside per day, and you cannot move between airsides (A, C, E, and F).

How to Get To the Beach

As TPA is 30 to 45 minutes away, you will need to acquire a ticket or rental to get into Tampa. The top options are:

  1. Bus
  2. Rent a Car
  3. Taxi

Everything You Need to Know About St. Petersburg Airport (PIE)

St. Petersburg Airport is close to the beach, often offers lower fare flights to domestic destinations, is easy to park at, and easy to get around. You will enjoy fewer crowds, and with over 57 non-stop destinations, you should be able to find a direct flight to a destination of your choice within the US.

Places to Eat in PIE

As the airport is small, you will find bistros and cafés rather than full-scale restaurants. There is Sam Adams Grille and Bar, where you can get American bistro items and, for those over 21, a drink.

There is also the Tampa Bay Café and Bar, which offers more pastries and deli options.

Places to Shop in PIE

There is one main souvenir shop in PIE for you to browse and stock up on a few goodies with, but you won’t find the large duty-free stores like TPA has here.


If you have the choice of airports near Tampa, it is important to know what matters to you. If you are flying internationally and need to arrive well before your flight time, then TPA has plenty more shops and restaurants to keep you entertained. If you have a layover, TPA is also the preferred option as it has an in-airport hotel.
PIE, however, is very close to the beach, is smaller, simpler to navigate, and can be preferred to those who don’t like large, busy areas. PIE is also more of an option if you are flying domestically.