Two major commercial air carriers have begun nonstop seasonal service between Key West and both New York City and Washington D.C.

Water-squirting fire trucks, a red carpet and a man blowing a conch shell greeted passengers stepping off Delta Airlines and U.S. Airways flights Saturday at Key West International Airport.

Delta Airlines is offering direct flights from New York’s LaGuardia Airport Dec. 29, Jan. 5 and each Saturday from March 2 through April 6. The 1,211-mile flight is the longest commercial route ever to serve Key West, Keys airport officials said.

Direct U.S. Airways flights from Washington’s Reagan National Airport are being offered once daily through Jan. 5, and continue each Saturday through April.

Southwest is to begin daily service between New Orleans and Key West on March 9.

By the end of November, Key West International had already passed last year’s passenger count of 677,581, according to Peter Horton, director of Monroe County airports. Horton anticipates the passenger count to reach more than 730,000 by Dec. 31.

The airport also achieved point-of-entry status to Cuba from federal officials this year, which permits it to stage flights directly to and from the island nation that lies just 90 miles south of Key West.

Officials at one South Florida-based company, Golden Air Charters, say it has plans to begin charter service from Key West in 2013.

Key West visitor information: or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
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