Long Island MacArthur Airport's newest airline officially took its maiden flight Friday.
Amid balloons and speeches, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Company flew its first flight to Punta Gorda, Fla., out of the Ronkonkoma facility, filled with Yankees heading south for the holidays.
"This is very exciting," said Sayville resident Leslie Maynard as she watched the ribbon-cutting ceremony. She was heading to North Port, Fla., to see her parents for the holidays, and was happy to trade the two-hour drive from the Tampa airport for the 20-minute drive from the Punta Gorda airport. "This is going to be much more convenient," she said.
Allegiant Air Flight 999 left at 7:20 p.m. Friday. The airline will make two nonstop flights a week between Long Island and Florida, with departures from MacArthur on Friday evenings and returns from Punta Gorda on Monday afternoons. Airline spokeswoman Lindsay Hernquist said most of the plane's 166 seats on the MD-80 aircraft were booked for the inaugural flight.
Along with PenAir, Allegiant brings to four the total number of airlines at MacArthur.
Dix Hills resident Vivian Badra was originally going to drive all the way to Punta Gorda with her husband, Ihab, and sons Jack and Elias. "It would take 24 hours," she said."This is just what Long Islanders need," said town councilman and airport liaison John Cochrane at the ceremony.
"This is the unsharpened diamond of Long Island," Cochrane later said of MacArthur. "We're not going to fail."
Assemb. Al Graf (R-Holbrook) said Allegiant's presence portended a great future for Islip and MacArthur. "The town is doing a great job," he said. "It's an engine for the community."