A big question I get from potential visitors is, “How do you get to Key West?” When I moved to the island, our airport sporting the famous airport code EYW had occasional air-conditioning, a few ceiling fans that turned, and a big hole in the wall through which our luggage was tossed. DC3 aircraft served the island from a couple of cities, along with an occasional Air Florida jet.
Some people don’t realize that we now have a new modern airport with great airline choices. The terminal even showcases local artists’ work through our Art in Public Places program — and its exterior features a wonderful Key West mural painted by local artist Rick Worth.
EYW is now served by more connecting flights, from a larger variety of cities, than ever before. Don’t worry about flying those “puddle jumpers” (even though they’re really fun) as we have fewer of them than ever!
American Airlines’ loyal customers can connect through the newly renovated Miami International Airport (MIA) gate D60. When I began flying AA, they brought box-like Shorts 360 aircraft to EYW. These funny-looking flying boxes gave you a shower from the air-conditioning if you sat in the front rows, and a roller-coaster ride in the back.
Beginning this summer AA, which has served EYW for years with a variety of aircraft, will be flying regional jet planes for the 25-minute ride.
Delta serves us out of Atlanta (ATL) with several daily regional jet flights and a daily big 737 with a first-class cabin for those who like to ride up front.
AirTran has now officially become Southwest. Though their booking websites have not completely merged, you can book a daily round-trip to the island from either Tampa International (TPA) or Orlando International (MCO). And flight frequency may increase, since Southwest normally operates several daily flights on its routes.
United and Continental are merging as well, and offer flights to EYW from both Tampa and Fort Lauderdale International (FLL). Their Beachcraft 19-seaters are soon to be gone, replaced by larger 29-seat Saab SF340 turbo-props.
Favorite New England-based Cape Air brings five flights per day from Fort Myers International (RSW) to EYW. Traveling in Cape Air’s signature nine-passenger Cessna 402s, passengers can connect through RSW from Jet Blue, American Airlines, and most other carriers with their through-baggage agreements.
Among other highlights of Key West’s new airport is the expanded Conch Flyer Restaurant. Long a favorite watering hole for locals, it still serves one of the best bowls of conch chowder on the island. Chock full of conch, potatoes and fresh carrots, this local-made chowder is even available to take home from the departure café and bar.
The new Flyer still has super burgers, BLT sandwiches, and great tuna salad — plus an outdoor “beach bar” complete with a waterfall and free WiFi.
In other words, getting to Key West by air is just getting better than ever!
Of course, if you prefer, you can drive down on the scenic Overseas Highway, an unforgettable road whose 40-some bridges span the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. As well as unparalleled panoramas, this leisurely drive offers the chance to explore the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys.
You can always drive down from South Florida and book your return flight out of EYW … giving you the best of both worlds for your Key West experience.
Steve Smith can be found at KeysVoices.com.