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Some MacArthur flights resume as travel restrictions ease

Some flights will resume at Long Island MacArthur

Some flights will resume at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma. Credit: Barry Sloan

Two of Long Island MacArthur Airport's three carriers said they plan to add or restore flights as state travel restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic are slowly lifted.

American Airlines announced it would resume flights between MacArthur and Philadelphia on Oct. 7, and Southwest Airlines said it plans to restore departures from the Ronkonkoma airport to pre-COVID levels — about 10 flights a day — in January.

The Islip Town-owned airport's third carrier, Frontier Airlines, did not respond to a message seeking comment.

In addition, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced last week that five states served by MacArthur's carriers — California, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada and Ohio — had been removed from New York's travel advisory list, leaving 30 states and territories where travel to and from New York is restricted. States are added to the list when positive coronavirus tests average more than 10% over seven days, or they exceed 10 cases per 100,000 residents.

Islip officials said lifting travel restrictions on those five states — including major destinations such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Baltimore and Cleveland — should boost business at MacArthur.

"This is a good day for Long Island, as travelers can begin thinking about flying again to many nonstop and connecting destinations that have been under quarantine restrictions for quite some time," Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter said in a statement. "We know Long Island residents are ready to prudently visit family, take a much-needed holiday or travel for business. Removing these states from restrictions is an important step forward."

Daily departures from MacArthur had dropped by about 75% in May as airlines across the country were devastated by canceled flights and reduced ridership stemming from the pandemic. Besides self-imposed limits on the number of passengers they would carry, airlines were hurt by state restrictions on travel from areas with high infection rates.

Islip said it received $7.1 million in federal stimulus funds and tapped $7.6 million in airport reserve funds to help stem losses at MacArthur.

Before March, MacArthur annually served about 1.6 million passengers. The three airlines had direct flights to 11 U.S. cities, with connecting flights to thousands more destinations.

Town officials have said they are trying to bring passengers back by installing enhanced safety precautions at the airport, including a high-tech air purification system that destroys viruses, mold, bacteria and fungi in the terminal. That's in addition to the usual coronavirus-related safety protocols, such as requirements to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Counters and other high-touch points have antimicrobial films to limit the spread of the virus, officials said.

"The hard work of our staff and the foresight of our leadership enables us to offer our customers peace of mind when returning to travel," airport commissioner Shelley LaRose-Arken said in a statement.

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