The answer, according to US DOT data, is 1998 when Martinair began flying to Amsterdam. That service is no longer, but Tampa is celebrating once again as Swiss carrier Edelweiss will fly to the Florida gateway from next summer.
"We were looking for a destination in Florida which can be served on a sustainable basis for the future - Tampa has the potential to grow in terms of frequency and traffic," Michael Trestl, business development manager at Edelweiss told ATI.
Under new management since January, Tampa has created a major incentive programme and stepped up its marketing efforts to lure new service, said Joe Lopano, chief executive of Tampa. Edelweiss will become the airport's second European carrier after British Airways.
"We have put together a two-year strategy of how we will work with Edelweiss to make this route work," said Lopano. This includes support from local agencies the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Economic Development Agency, the Chamber of Commerce and local business leaders.
"Tampa has a very good geographic location as the gateway to central Florida," said Trestl. "Edelweiss has in addition to great support from Tampa International Airport also had support from the whole business community in this region." The airline had also considered Orlando, Sarasota and Fort Myers airports for the service.
Edelweiss, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Lufthansa Group and sister airline to Swiss, will operate a year-round weekly flight to Tampa with an Airbus A330-300. It will operate two weekly frequencies in the peak summer period from 3 July to 11 September.
The A330 will feature 36 business class seats and 296 in economy. All of Edelweiss's flights are operated as codeshares with Swiss.
"This is the first service from Tampa to Europe that has full codeshare to all markets beyond [the arrival hub]," said Joe Lopano, chief executive of Tampa. "There are great opportunities in co-operation with Swiss to offer connecting traffic on all destinations in Europe served from Zurich," said Trestl.
And here's a story outlining Tampa's thinking and strategy:
Tampa lures new service to boost local economy
Tempting Edelweiss to Tampa is a major breakthrough for the airport's new management team, which adds the Swiss carrier to extra service from British Airways, routes to Puerto Rico and charter flights to Cuba that have been secured this year.
In January, Tampa (skyline below) brought in Dallas/Ft Worth executive Joe Lopano to transform the airport and the region's fortunes. Tampa had seen traffic falling since 2007 as recession took its toll. It is the 30th largest airport in the US but its passenger numbers fell by 1.8% in 2010 compared to the year before to 16.6 million.
"We have to grow ourselves out of this recession," Lopano told ATI. "We can no longer afford to have traffic driven to other airports because we don't have the flights."
Tampa had stagnated while other US airports used dynamic marketing tactics to secure new airline service. "We have demonstrated that our airport loses tonnes of traffic to other airports," said Lopano. "To be successful you have got to be aggressive in marketing. Tampa now operates the same way as Dallas/Ft Worth."
Lopano's team, which includes some executives recruited from DFW, have introduced a new financial incentive scheme, an economic impact study and "united the community behind a message of growth".
"We believe in the power of the region. We are going to be the gateway to the west coast of Florida," said Lopano.
The announcement that Edelweiss will begin service next year is a major boost to the new Tampa team. "This is the first proof point of the power of the regional approach," said Lopano.
The Edelweiss service will be Tampa's first new nonstop flight to Europe for over a decade, with US DOT data showing the last time an airline launched such a service was Martinair to Amsterdam in 1998.
The airport is targeting more European carriers to serve the popular Florida market and is hoping to attract carriers from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and other countries in Central and South America. The Tampa region is home to large Hispanic communities.
The Edelweiss decision comes on the back of several route announcements by Tampa so far this year. British Airways has moved two of its nine weekly Orlando services to Tampa in summer 2011 taking its schedule to a daily frequency.
US carriers AirTran Airways and JetBlue Airways both launched double-daily service to San Juan in Puerto Rico earlier this year, while in early September charter flights to Cuba started from Tampa for the first time in 50 years.
So there you have it. Tampa is back on the map when it comes to attracting new service.