June 30, 2008

Airport Taking a Nosedive

By MARGARET MENGE, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon

Jun. 28--The month of May was not a good one at Key West International Airport.

The number of people getting off arriving flights was down 16 percent when compared to May of last year, and down a stunning 26 percent for the first five months of this year compared to 2005.

Since 2005, the number of passengers traveling through Key West International Airport has been dropping steadily, from a high-water mark of 618,174, to 563,947 in 2006, then to 538,066 in 2007. If this year continues on the same downward trend, the number of people arriving at Key West's airport will have fallen to numbers we haven't seen since the early '90s. It will also be the first time in the history of the airport that the number of passengers has fallen for three successive years.

Delta Air Lines has had the biggest drop in arriving passengers in the past three years. In 2005, more than 50,000 people flew Delta into Key West between January and May. In 2008, just 32,500 people arrived in Key West on Delta between January and May - a drop of more than 36 percent.

The decrease in the number of passengers, however, has not affected the airport's finances. The airport is doing just fine, airport director Peter Horton said. Revenues are up 4.6 percent over last year - the result of rents and fees charged to airlines, rental car companies and companies that service planes on the ground, he said.

It is Key West itself that has been taking a hit. Assuming a two-night stay at $200 per night, the decrease in arriving passengers from 2005 to 2008 (January-May) adds up to a loss to the tourism industry of more than $16 million.

Horton says that 2005 is not, however, the fairest comparison. "2005 was the best year we ever had," he says. Everybody wanted to come to Key West that year, and did, it seems, despite the four hurricanes that shut down the airport for a total of 13 days.


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Copyright (c) 2008, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon

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