International flight returns to Key West
KEY WEST, Florida (Reuters) -- International flights are set to begin on Thursday from the popular Florida tourist island Key West for the first time since the Cuban missile crisis.
Orlando, Florida-based Discover Air is scheduled to inaugurate its hour-long nonstop commercial flight aboard a 19-passenger, turbo-propeller plane from Key West International Airport to Nassau, Bahamas.
Key West, located about 160 miles southwest of Miami, is the southernmost island in the Florida Keys chain and is 90 miles from Havana, Cuba.
The new service will mark the first international flight since 1961 from this two-by-four mile island -- often called "The Rock" because of its coral rock foundation.
"Key West has great appeal and is a special destination that has not had an international flight in more than 40 years," said Yvette Hart-Metzger, vice president of sales and marketing of Discover Air, a privately held carrier owned by Orlando-based Florida Air Holdings.
Key West's last international flight, to Havana, was halted the year before the Cuban missile crisis as relations between the United States and Cuba soured .
A "soft" launch of the Key West-Nassau flight -- which is targeting package vacationers who enjoy gambling, golf and tennis -- left on Thursday with only four passengers.
But the airline is betting its one-way fares of $50 to $99 per passenger will fill up seats on the new service, currently scheduled Thursday, Fridays and Sundays.
Discover Air also is set to begin chartered flights from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Havana via Miami, in December through a U.S.-licensed tour operator, Hart-Metzger said.
The carrier is working on additional scheduled service to Cuba, possibly from Key West, although federal restrictions currently prohibit routes from the United States to the communist-run island for commercial flights, she said.
Delta Connection airline began flying regional jets in October from Key West to Atlanta, marking the first time the Key West airport, tallying 262,000 annual passengers, had service outside of Florida.
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