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Tampa, Florida -- Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was one of 153 passengers to take the first direct flight from Tampa International to Panama Tuesday.

Copa Airlines Flight 229 left around 7:40 a.m. for the three-hour flight.

PHOTOS:First direct flight from TIA to Panama takes off

Airport officials have been pursuing the direct flight to the South American hub for a couple of years.

SEE ALSO:Excitement builds for non-stop flights to Panama

The flight takes off four times a week andallows Bay area travelers to bypass Orlando and Miami to get to other South American destinations such as Buenos Aires, Bogota, Caracas, Lima, Quinto, and Rio de Janeiro.