Recently I had a chat on Facebook with a friend about which is more better…Shut up, I have do so have friends. Flying directly into Key West, or out, or using Miami instead. We talked enough in depth about it so I decided to take said talk and put it all here on the Fritter for the convenience of those who need to know which option would work best should one want to fly in or out of the end of the world. Pay attention as there is a lot of information here along with some important links.
Getting in and out of Key West by air is pretty popular for most people who do not live within driving distance of the island. But which is the best option? Key West has it’s own airport with plenty of flights in and out, or Miami, which has more flights and is usually cheaper with the airfares. Said cheaper airfares are usually why most people opt for the big city airport but is it really worth the difference in cost? Let’s take a look.
Key West has three main airlines currently operating down here, American, Delta, and Silver. They fly direct into several major airports including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, and Atlanta. From there it’s easy to jump another flight and head off to where every one needs to go. Every couple of years or so one or another airline might leave or come in but there is always enough choices to find the flight you may need. The planes are usually smaller and not as crowded so you can get on and off a lot quicker.
Miami of course, is a major metro airport with virtually every airline in the world operating out of it. You can pretty much fly anywhere from there with one less leg of a flight to worry about. And the difference shows up in the airfares.
Overall, depending on a number of factors like flight times, dates, deals, and whims of the airlines, Key West airfares normally run $100 or more than Miami flights. It can be a lot if all you are looking at is the cost of airfares itself. If you start to factor in other aspects like convenience, drive times, parking, congestion, and the fact you are still in the hell which is Miami, sometimes it may be worth it to fly direct into Key West. It all depends on what you want to put up with.
Flying into Miami as the final destination before heading out to the Keys means you still have to find a way to the Keys. Most people rent a car and drive down. All well and good if you never have made the drive down the Overseas Highway and I highly recommend doing so at least once in your life. It’s well worth the trip, once or twice. Doing it all the time can be a pain in the posterior. It takes a minimum of 4 hours to get from MIA to Key West. And only if the traffic is in your favor. There are always back ups in the city and once you do get into the Keys the speed limit is 45 most of the way with a cop at every mile marker it seems with a radar gun at the ready. Plus you will need to rent said car, fuel it, find places to park, and otherwise be stuck with it while on a island where a car is really not necessary. You also run the risk of missing a flight due to delays from traffic on the return trip, or you may have to go the night before to make an early flight and wind up paying for a hotel room when you could still be here in Key West catching sunset and wolfing down one last slice of Key Lime Pie. There are some other options however, if one does not want to get a rental car but still wants to fly in or out of Miami.
As it so happens, the old standby, Greyhound, is still in business and they have a shuttle from Key West to Miami airport and back. There are two shuttles per day and the cost runs from $22 and up depending on how far ahead you make a reservation. The bus terminal is located in Key West airport so it’s like a flight, easy to get in and out of. Yeah, it’s still a 4 hour plus ride but at least you ain’t doing the driving and don’t have a vehicle to worry about.
Another option is to find someone heading up to or from Miami and share a ride. In fact, Facebook has such a group. A bit risky but if you are feeling adventurous, go for it. Or you can skip all the bovine fecal matter and just fly direct into Key West.
Flying directly into Key West means you are right there on the island when you get off the plane. Walk out the baggage claim and there are a line of taxis waiting to take you to wherever you are staying, or the buses come by every hour, or you can walk if you are up to it. There are rental cars there if you still need one and the airport is easy to get in and out of. You can be off your plane and within an hour be sipping your first rum runner of the day.
As for flying out, the same thing applies in reverse. You can face the long drive up the highway or just go direct to EYW, get on the plane and be gone. Ticket and security lines are always short, the departure lounge is nice and small, and close by. No taking those annoying people movers from one end of the airport to the other. The Key West airport staff is usually pretty friendly and chances are they speak English. Not so much in Miami.
Getting in and out of Key West airport is nothing. KWTransit runs the Blue and Green routes through every hour or so. The Marathon shuttle comes by. A taxi ride across the island will run you about $15. And check with your accommodations. Some of the bigger resorts have a dedicated shuttle which will go there. Sometimes for nothing more than a tip for the driver.
There is parking at the airport but really, what is the point when you are never more than 3 miles away? Leave the vehicle at home and you don’t have to worry about it. I have even rode my bicycle there which everyone always thought was pretty cool. There are bike and scooter racks near the steps upstairs to the ticket counters. Just lock it up and forget about it. And it’s free.
As for other airports which are reasonably close, Ft. Lauderdale has been known to have even cheaper flights than Miami. However, it’s at least another hour drive away and Greyhound does not go directly to the airport.
Ft. Myers on the west coast is sometimes an option. While the airfares are not as cheap, you can land there and take the Key West Express directly to Key West and back. A bit pricey but a fun boat ride, when the weather is good.
So really, what it all comes down to is if the difference in airfares between Key West and Miami is worth the trade off for convenience of actually beginning or ending your trip here at the local airport. For me, it’s always been a no brainer. I much prefer to fly directly out of Key West when I go up north. I can be a bit more liberal in choosing flight times, I don’t have all the tension and worry about getting 150 miles up the road to Miami, and when I get back, I’m home. The trip is over with and I’m not beat to death. Or not as much as putting up with the city.
I pretty much always fly out of Key West with the rule of thumb being about $100 or better. If for some reason flights are more than $100 cheaper in Miami, I will look into the logistics of getting up there. Rarely has it happened yet. I’ve flown into and out of Miami on the way down here and up to where I was going, but making Miami my final was never worth the hassle. It also depends on where I am going.
Most of the time I make one flight a year up north to visit family. It always works out to be best to just fly direct out of Key West and back. It might cost a bit more but it’s so much more better to get up, not have to rush to the airport, and when I get back, hop the bus, or the bike, or walk home. However, when I decide to go to Hawaii, I will more than likely opt for the Miami departure for a couple of reasons.
Fares to Maui out of Miami are significantly cheaper than Key West. In fact, most of the Key West flights go to Miami and then points west. For what said Miami leg costs it’s more better to take the bus up there and then go. The other reason is I will be facing a 6 hour time difference between here and Maui time. To keep the jet lag down, I would plan an overnight trip with a layover in California before heading to the islands the next day. It’s not like I’m in a big hurry once I get going. And I sort of enjoy hanging out in airports watching the whole of humanity pass by. After all, the journey itself is the adventure. So, unless a special air fare deal comes along, or unless I find my self elsewhere when I am ready to go, I will most likely opt for the Miami run to Hawaii. It all depends on my financial situation and how I feel when I am ready to go.
Everyone has their own preferences. As I said, I will take the convenience of landing or taking off directly out of Key West over the cheaper air fares of Miami most of the time. It’s just so much more easier to me. If you are living down here or make frequent trips, it may be your best option also. If you have never been and you want to see the other islands of the Keys, then go through Miami, get a car and drive down and back. It’s a great trip and a must do for everyone.
There are plenty of options as I have listed above for either Key West or Miami. Do some research before you book your flight, add up all costs, not just airfare, but transportation to and from airports, time spent traveling, and other factors before you decide which is best for you. I would add one more point in favor of flying directly into Key West.
It’s really really cool to fly down along the islands and pass over Key West as you come in to land. Same with going back out. You get to see the whole island from the air and get a real feel for how small it is and what is on it. Look for me when you do come in. I’ll wave at you when you fly by.