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PenAir to pull out of MacArthur Airport

Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, April 23,

Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, April 23, 2014. Credit: Randee Daddona

PenAir will cease operating its twice-daily flights out of Long Island MacArthur Airport this summer, citing poor ticket sales at the struggling Ronkonkoma airport.

"We were losing money. We just weren't able to get to a consistent operating profit," David Hall, the Alaska-based airline's chief operating officer, said Tuesday. "Unfortunately it's a business, and that's how it works."

PenAir operates a 33-seat Saab 340 turboprop aircraft between Boston's Logan International Airport and MacArthur, which is owned and operated by the Town of Islip.

Tuesday's announcement comes a few weeks after Nevada-based Allegiant Air reported it was suspending its weekly flights between Ronkonkoma and Punta Gorda, Florida, through December. Two airlines, US Airways and Southwest Airlines, remain at MacArthur.

The airport has about 8,000 departing flights a year. It lost 46 percent of its daily flights between 2007 and 2012, and has lost nearly $4.2 million since 2011. MacArthur is estimated to have lost another $1.4 million last year, while the town grapples with an $11.3 million deficit.

Islip airport commissioner Robert Schaefer said the loss of PenAir will not have a large impact on the town's revenue because the airline was part of a yearlong incentive program that waived landing and gate fees for the airline.

PenAir started operations at MacArthur in July 2013. It's expected to cease operations in either late July or early August, Hall said.

Expectations were high that a Boston commuter route would be popular, Schaefer said.

"They [PenAir] actually thought it would work," he said. "The numbers from Boston . . . were very good."

PenAir suffered from cancellations in the past winter's bad weather and mechanical problems, which hurt its credibility with the sought-after business traveler, Schaefer said.

"It was really a businessman route, and they didn't have reliable flights," he said. "They had a lot of cancellations, and they admit that was their problem. We tried our best, but they weren't filling up the planes."

Schaefer said the airport is negotiating to bring in a new carrier for service to Boston as early as next week.

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