June 20, 2018

File
Florida Keys Marathon International Airport has not offered regularly scheduled commercial flights in nearly a decade.

File Florida Keys Marathon International Airport has not offered regularly scheduled commercial flights in nearly a decade.

MARATHON — The Florida Keys Marathon International Airport can boast of a long runway, a welcoming terminal, convenient car rentals and parking.

Just one missing ingredient remains: a commercial airline with regularly scheduled flights.

“This is something we want to start working on again,” Daniel Samess, chief executive of the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, said last week. “It’s on our radar, for sure. We were starting to make some progress before Hurricane Irma. Obviously that got derailed.”

The addition of nearly 300 new resort rooms opening in Marathon in coming months lends some urgency to the quest for a reliable airline connection to Miami International Airport, said Samess.

The Knights Key resort being developed by Pritam Singh will offer 199 high-end units by itself.

“It’s going to be a four-star resort with two or three restaurants, three to five pools, a small meeting room and an outdoor wedding venue,” Samess said. “We’re excited about the clientele it will bring.”

The Hampton Inn near Vaca Cut will open soon with another 80 rooms, and the iconic Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key is expected to reopen its 177-room main resort before 2019. 

“We’re growing and we definitely want our own commercial airline service,” Samess said. “It’s great to see Key West [International Airport] adding service, but as the No. 2-performing destination in the Keys, we feel we can be successful in our own right.”

Currently, said acting Monroe County airports director T.J. Henderson, “We do not have any definitive plans for commercial airline service to Marathon.”

The existing Middle Keys terminal now houses rental-car agencies, a U.S. Customs international entry checkpoint and temporary offices of the Marathon Jet Center, the fixed-based operator for private aircraft.

“It might be a little tight,” Samess said of adding an airline counter, “but we could move things around. That would be a great problem to have.”

Henderson agreed, “If or when airlines return to Marathon, we will have terminal space to accommodate them.”

More than 15 commercial airlines have come and flown away since Marathon’s airport opened for public service in late 1959, according to author Douglas Henderson of “Sunshine Skies: Historic Commuter Airlines of Florida and Georgia.”

The last regularly scheduled flights took place nearly a decade ago.

kwadlow@keysnews.com