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Letters: What's wrong, right at MacArthur

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 jet about to

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 jet about to take off at MacArthur Airport. (March 29, 2012) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Southwest Airlines has done a great job of serving the Long Island market with adequate scheduling, passenger-friendly service and fare policies, absence of nuisance fees for baggage, etc. ["Shaken by turbulence," News, April 23].

The drop in passenger use of Long Island MacArthur Airport has less to do with Southwest and more to do with the difficulty in accessing the airport. As long as we are stuck with a single mainline railroad track, most Long Islanders can't get to Ronkonkoma between 6:30 and 9 a.m. or leave from there between 4:45 and 7:15 p.m.

Do we need a consultant to tell us that this is not very conducive for anyone needing to access Southwest flights for business or recreational travel? A light-rail link is a high-cost capital item and not a realistic option in the short term.

What can the Town of Islip do immediately? I suggest a hard look at its pricing and regulatory policies that make ground access by car or taxi quite expensive.

Unless you are lucky enough to be dropped off at MacArthur, your options are either to drive your own car to the airport and pay a minimum of $12.50 per day for long-term parking, or use a local taxi company, whose fares average $40 to $50 for a relatively short, 15-mile trip to surrounding communities. Longer taxi trips to more distant points in Suffolk or into Nassau County are even more prohibitive.

Contrast this with the $8 per day long-term parking at Baltimore (Southwest's hub) or several of the low-cost shared-ride taxi and van services at most suburban airports.

Mike Licitra, Deer Park

Your story mentions the idea of building a light rail link or people mover to connect the airport with the Long Island Rail Road's Ronkonkoma station. Wouldn't it be more sensible, and cheaper in the long run, to extend the present LIRR tracks to the airport? This would have the added benefit of giving passengers a one-seat ride to and from Manhattan and points east.

Walter G. Karppi, East Norwich

What's wrong with MacArthur Airport? Nothing. The terminal is easy to traverse, counters are plentiful, the luggage area is sufficient and bags come in a timely manner, security is efficient, parking is a pleasure.

Then why has MacArthur gone from being a boon to a burden? Simple. It is Southwest Airlines.

This is why I went from being a longtime flyer with Southwest to now taking a 45- minute ride to Kennedy Airport or LaGuardia. Southwest has cut its routes and eliminated longtime destinations. Many of its nonstop routes are no longer offered, layover times are longer, and it is no longer a discount airline.

What would Southwest do if another viable airline also served Islip? My guess is that MacArthur would see a resurgence of fliers.

Stephen Troy, Medford

My wife and I enjoy trips to Las Vegas and found flying out of MacArthur airport very easy and convenient. A few years back, Southwest eliminated direct flights to Las Vegas. Now there is a stop either in Baltimore or Chicago.

What started as a nice five-hour flight suddenly turned into an eight- or nine-hour ordeal. When I contacted Southwest and asked why, the airline said there just weren't enough people flying to justify a nonstop flight. This seemed rather strange because whenever we flew to Las Vegas, the plane was fully booked. Now we drive to JFK and fly JetBlue.

Paul Piazza, Coram

I find it very interesting that Islip Supervisor Tom Croci, serving for the first time in elective office, would not permit MacArthur Airport Commissioner Teresa Rizzuto to be interviewed for her opinion. I immediately got the impression from Croci's comments that he believes that he is more qualified to address the airport's future than the commissioner.

Croci, by his own admission, grew up near the airport and does not want it to be a JFK. There appears to be friction among the stakeholders in this situation, and I for one would very much like to hear Rizutto's opinion.

I use the airport weekly and believe ISP could serve the public better without the political chest-thumping by a newborn in office. With the present state of the economy, the airport is a vital asset to all Long Islanders.

Ron Regan, East Northport

Editor's note: The writer is a retired air traffic controller-manager.

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