Sen. Charles Schumer is pushing for Long Island MacArthur to become an international airport.
Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans a news conference at the airport Monday at 11 a.m. to urge U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow a customs facility to be built there so it can provide international flights.
Schumer, a prolific backer of the Islip Town-run airport who has pushed in the past to attract discount airline JetBlue Airways to MacArthur, said in a statement that bringing an international customs facility to the Ronkonkoma airport would attract new airlines and allow current carriers to provide international flights to destinations such as Aruba and the Bahamas.
The release said airport officials already are at work on a plan to retrofit their facilities to allow an international customs gate there, but they would first need the approval of Customs and Border Protection administrators. The agency is one of the largest working under the Department of Homeland Security.
"A customs facility at MacArthur could be a magnet for new carriers, helping the airport regain some of its lost flights and giving Long Islanders direct access to some of the most popular tourist destinations," Schumer said in the statement. "The feds can make this happen, and I'm asking them to work hand-in-glove with the local airport authorities to produce a plan and get it through the approval process."
According to the news release, "several airlines have sent letters of intent, but the airport needs certain facilities and additional personnel before international flights can land."
Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci and deputy airport commissioner Terry Hennessey did not respond to requests for comment.
Schumer's announcement came a week after Newsday reported that MacArthur has seen a 46.4 percent decrease in commercial flights since 2007 because of several economic and industry factors. The figure was noted in the news release and in Schumer's letter to Thomas Winkowski, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
"The loss of flights is particularly devastating as the airport is a major employer and serves as an economic engine for the region," Schumer said in his letter.
MacArthur Airport last year hit its lowest number of commercial flights since Southwest Airlines began its service there in 1999. But airport officials have said MacArthur is on the upswing, and they have undertaken several projects -- such as a roadway realignment and the lengthening of two taxiways -- to attract new service.
In March, airport officials announced that Alaska-based regional carrier PenAir would provide two round-trip flights a day to Boston starting in July. And last year, US Airways added an additional daily flight to Washington's Reagan National Airport.