Despite a global pandemic, business at Key West International Airport continues to soar.
The airport will add a new route and service starting June 2, Monroe County Airports Director Richard Strickland said. The Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air will start operating direct service to and from Nashville, Tennessee. The flights, which could accommodate more than 100 passengers, will be on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
“This is really good news,” Strickland said.
Strickland approached Allegiant Air more than a year ago about the service, he said.
“This is a good fit for us,” Strickland said. “Nashville is a phenomenal city with quite a mix of people. The city is very diverse both culturally and economically.”
Allegiant Air is the second carrier in the past month to announce new service to and from Key West. JetBlue agreed to bring two routes to the airport, Boston and New York. The airline will be flying in Thursday, Friday, Sunday and Monday from JFK Airport and Boston Logan International Airport starting Feb. 11.
The JetBlue service is currently seasonal, running through April, but Strickland hopes to eventually make the service year-round, he said. The pandemic and the availability of a vaccine could factor into the service becoming year-round, said Strickland, who has been working on obtaining the service for two years.
JetBlue plans to use a roughly 96-passenger planes for both routes, Strickland said.
The airport at Key West struggled in the spring and early summer with the COVID-19 pandemic, but started to see signs of recovery in October when passenger counts rose and United Airlines resumed daily service to Chicago and Newark, N.J.
There are big changes on the horizon for the airport. In October, Strickland unveiled preliminary plans and designs for a new concourse and other improvements.
The Monroe County Commission has approved a series of request for proposals and qualifications as well as loan and grant requests for the project, which is slated to start in 2022 and run through 2024. The project is being funded through fees placed on plane tickets for passengers using the airport, not local sales or property tax, Strickland said.
The new concourse will accommodate a third security check-in line and more room for a baggage pickup area. The departure area will go from 4,000-to 18,000-square feet, Stickland said.
The project includes glass jetways so people will no longer have to walk across the tarmac to get to the terminal.
In an effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, a coronavirus-fighting robot has patrolling the airport’s interior spaces after hours, emitting high-intensity ultraviolet UVC light to kill harmful pathogens in the air and on surfaces.
The ultraviolet disinfection robot, developed by UVD Robots, is designed to remove 99.9% of pathogens including COVID-19, according to the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.