Good Evening
Good Evening

76% say they’d use MacArthur if more airlines sign on

Passengers check in at the Southwest Airlines counter

Passengers check in at the Southwest Airlines counter at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma on Aug. 17, 2016. Southwest is the airport's main tenant. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

More than seven in 10 Long Islanders said they would use MacArthur Airport more frequently if additional airlines flew from there, according to a new poll.

Seventy-six percent of registered voters in a survey conducted in December for the Long Island Association business group said they would fly from the Ronkonkoma airport more often if its roster of air carriers expanded beyond the current three.

The people most likely to use MacArthur more were Suffolk County residents, people age 35 to 54, those with college degrees, and those earning $100,000 or more per year, the poll showed.

The survey of 709 voters, which was released last week, found 52 percent now use MacArthur, while 47 percent do not.

Debbie Schwartz, who took the poll and lives in Bohemia, said she has taken flights for years from MacArthur on Southwest Airlines.

“It’s more convenient for me than driving to JFK or LaGuardia,” said the 54-year-old homemaker, referring to the Queens airports. “But Southwest doesn’t go everywhere that I want to go and often you have to make a connection” if you fly out of MacArthur.

“I wish there were more options there,” Schwartz said.

In addition to Southwest, the Islip Town-owned airport is served by American Airlines and Elite Airways.

Elite, based in Portland, Maine, began service in June, with twice-weekly flights to Melbourne, Florida, and seasonal service to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Bar Harbor, Maine.

Starting in March, the carrier will offer service to Newport News, Virginia.

Shelley LaRose-Arken, Islip’s aviation and transportation commissioner, said Monday that a $200,000 advertising campaign aimed at raising awareness among passengers will start next month.

“Much of the focus in 2017 will be toward marketing to the business customer, and making additional improvements in services desired by these travelers,” she said.

LaRose-Arken also said the town is focused “first on investing in our partnership with the airport’s existing airlines” rather than adding new ones.

MacArthur has struggled to keep carriers despite federal, state and local support for improvements to the facility.

A planned customs operation would allow international flights to use the airport, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week included $20 million in his proposed 2017-18 state budget to connect the air terminal to the nearby Long Island Rail Road Ronkonkoma station.

MacArthur “can take traffic away from JFK; it can take a load off LaGuardia,” Cuomo said earlier this month in Farmingdale at one of his six State of the State speeches. “We have to make MacArthur more usable, more accessible.”

The Special LIA-Siena College Long Island Voters Poll was conducted by telephone on Dec. 8 and Dec. 11-14. It was paid for by the LIA and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

LIA president and CEO Kevin Law said the poll results confirm “that the state’s investment in the airport is wise and it confirms that the town’s effort to lure more airlines is wise.”

More news