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Islip hires two airline consultants to help grow business at Long Island MacArthur Airport

Passengers look for their airline ticket counter inside

Passengers look for their airline ticket counter inside the terminal at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma on April, 23, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Town of Islip is giving the cash-strapped Long Island MacArthur Airport a fiscal boost with more than $100,000 worth of airline consultant help.

Islip Town Board members on Tuesday unanimously approved a one-year, $75,000 contract for Manhattan-based Simat, Helliesen & Eichner Inc., to provide consulting services. A $40,000 contract, which ends at the end of this year, was awarded to Indianapolis-based Vasey Aviation Group LLC to help with capital planning and operations strategy. Both groups previously had contracts with the town for consultant services at the airport.

The town-owned airport has been struggling financially for years and most recently announced that Allegiant Air, which started service there just four months ago, is suspending flights to Florida from May to December.

The Ronkonkoma airport suffered nearly a $4.2 million shortfall from 2010 to 2012 and is projected to have lost an additional $1.4 million last year. About 46 percent of its daily flights vanished between 2007 and 2012. It now has about 8,000 departing flights a year.

The number of people flying out of the airport has also dropped dramatically, with just under 679,000 passengers in 2012 compared with 1.2 million in 2007. The town has its own financial issues as it continues to wrestle with a $11.3 million deficit.

"All this stuff comes down to having people with corporate knowledge, that we don't need full-time [town employees] doing stuff, because we are still struggling to make ends meet," said Islip Town Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr.

The Simat group will gather data on the airport that the commissioner, Robert Schaefer, can use at an airport convention in Canada in June to woo new carriers. In the past, the town has used consultants to appear at these forums on its behalf.

"The days of luxury, of having Wall Street advertisers and mainline airport consultants, we can't afford that luxury at this time," Cochrane said.

Along with reconstructing its advertising campaigns, renting out space and holding special events, the airport has been forced to downsize staff levels and cut overtime for its workers in recent years.

The town is awaiting federal approval for two direct daily flights from MacArthur to Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Southwest Airlines, PenAir and US Airways Express also currently operate out of the airport.

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