Six Airlines Flying into Key West International Pushing a Resurgence of Tourism

Melinda Crow

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The Key West International Airport is driving tourism in the Keys.Courtesy Florida Keys & Key West

FLORIDA KEYS-- With a welcome resurgence of summer family travel, the Florida Keys & Key West continue to be in demand as a top bucket-list destination that's known for wide-open spaces, a variety of outdoor activities, and scenic vistas of sea and sky.

Summer is set to bring new nonstop flights into Key West International Airport. In June, six airlines — Allegiant, American, Delta, Silver, JetBlue, and United — are to operate 24 routes to Key West International Airport, which experienced a record high passenger count earlier this year.

Allegiant Air

The airline is adding twice-weekly nonstop service to Key West International Airport on Airbus A319 aircraft from three cities: beginning June 2 from Nashville International Airport on Wednesdays and Saturdays; on June 3 from Pittsburgh International Airport on Thursdays and Sundays; and beginning June 9 from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Allegiant chose Key West as a gateway city known for outdoor recreation. Visit allegiantair.com or call 702-505-8888.

United Airlines

United is offering daily nonstop service between Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Key West has been extended to run through Sept. 7 on 70-passenger Embraer E175 aircraft. United also has daily nonstop flights from Chicago O'Hare and Newark Liberty international airports and Dulles International Airport in greater Washington, D.C. Visit united.com or call 800-864-8331.

Changes are coming to the airport

Key West International Airport is undergoing an approximate $80 million expansion, targeted for completion in October 2024, with a new concourse that is to include a new security checkpoint, gates, holding room for departing passengers, concessions, baggage claim area, and glass-enclosed jet bridge to connect planes with the facility. Since December 2020, the airport has employed a coronavirus-fighting robot — one of the first in the U.S. to be used at an airport — that emits high-intensity ultraviolet-C wavelength light to kill harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces. Visit eyw.com or call 305-809-5200.

New attractions

In Islamorada, the History of Diving Museum has unveiled an exhibit titled “Diving In Pop Culture.” On display through Dec. 31, the exhibition contains representations of diving in literature, advertising, television, games, music, attractions, and collectibles. Homage is paid to famed diver Jacques Cousteau and includes ties to the museum's permanent exhibit celebrating Jules Verne's “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” There's also a working helmet made and based on the novel's description. Located at mile marker 83, the museum is dedicated to telling the story of humans' quest to explore, understand and venture under the sea. Visit divingmuseum.org or call 305-664-9737.

In Marathon, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters has a new Mangrove Terrapin Exhibit, home to two adult mangrove terrapins, in the attraction's Everglades area. Found almost exclusively in the Florida Keys, the terrapins resemble freshwater turtles but inhabit brackish and saltwater and are a subspecies of diamondback terrapins found across the southern United States. The aquarium also has a new coral restoration display that provides details about restoration efforts throughout the Keys. In addition, the facility offers “be a marine biologist for a day” camps for youths ages 10-14, 14-18, and 19 and older through July. Camps run Mondays through Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 4 pm., for one to three days. Sessions are priced at $150 per day or $400 for three days. Visit floridakeysaquariumencounters.com or call 305-407-3262.

Key West's 8,200-square-foot Hemingway Rum Co. Distillery at 201 Simonton St. plans to open a 2,400-square-foot center for hosting events this summer. The distillery also offers private "Papa's Cocktail Classes" with a tour, tasting, mixology class, and cocktail glass for a maximum of 10 participants on Tuesdays through Sundays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Formerly a tobacco warehouse, the venue houses the Papa's Pilar Rum production facility, an experience center, tasting room, and trading post. Reservations are required for the experience. Visit papaspilar.com or call 305-414-8754.

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