A decision by the Transportation Security Administration may end plans to resume commercial flights into the Marathon Airport in the Florida Keys. Marathon is about 50 miles northeast of Key West International.
The last commercial flight in and out of Florida Keys Marathon Airport was in 2000. For the past two years, business owners and residents have worked with Monroe County officials to attract airlines back to the terminal that had frequent commercial air service for years.
The Marathon-area raised 300,000 dollars and the county received more than two and half million in federal grants. The efforts were led by Keys Tourist Development Council member June Helbling, who lists the attributes of the Marathon airport.
"We certainly can justify more air service coming in to Monroe County. Key West is maxed out. We have a better facility. We have a longer airstrip. We’re smack dab in the middle. We can readily service both the lower keys and the upper keys.”
Helbling helped the community raise more than four million dollars for the effort and it worked. Continental Connection agreed to begin roundtrip service from Tampa and Fort Lauderdale in October. Delta Connection would begin service to Atlanta in November.
But the TSA now says it will not provide security screening, citing budgetary and other problems. Monroe County Airports Director Peter Horton says they’re disappointed and frustrated.
"That the federal government gave us the money for the air service grant, gave us the money that we needed to bring the terminal back to shape and the airport back to shape – prepare it for the TSA screening and now the TSA after working with us for 6 months is telling us that they’re not going to serve us.”
The TSA suggests both airlines could operate like charters, which follow certain rules and don't need TSA screeners. But Horton and the carriers reject that option. They instead hope the TSA will change its mind. A recent study revealed the commercial service would mean an economic impact of more than forty million dollars to the Florida Keys.
Friday, 11 August 2006 01:00
Marathon Airport FlightsWritten by WGCU Newsroom