Over the past decade, Long Island MacArthur Airport has grown from an underused airfield for commercial aviation to one where more than 1.7 million passengers went through its gates in 2010.
Today, the airport continues to market itself to Long Island residents and business travelers as a time and money saving alternative to New York City’s LaGuardia and Kennedy airports with the focus on MacArthur being a key component to driving the economic engines of Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Teresa Rizzuto, the airport’s commissioner since 2008, recently spoke with Patch about the current state of Long Island MacArthur Airport and what is being done to expand service and attract other carriers.
PATCH: Over the past couple years, MacArthur Airport has been running a broad marketing campaign and more recently entered the world of social networking. How have these efforts helped to attract more travelers to the airport?
TERESA RIZZUTO: We launched our marketing campaign in August 2009 and have spent that time building the brand and awareness of the airport. In addition, the recent decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to designate MacArthur as a New York airport will make more people realize that we are just not this little airport in Islip.
We are also working more with the Long Island Association (LIA) and Association for a Better Long Island (ABLI) to build more awareness of the airport with business groups.
PATCH: With Southwest Airlines now accounting for nearly all commercial flights at the airport, what efforts are being made to attract other airlines to MacArthur?
TR: From the time I was appointed commissioner, we have worked to make the airport more visible by going to industry conferences and meeting with airlines. We now have airlines reaching out to us for meetings about bringing service to MacArthur. While the economy has been tough on the airline industry and hurt us in trying to attract airlines, we continue to have many conversations.
PATCH: What have been some of the challenges to attracting other airlines to the airport?
TR: One of the big issues has been that many airlines have a strong presence at LaGuardia and Kennedy and the airlines do not want to cannibalize service there. In most markets, there is one large airport and one regional airport. But here, we are competing with two large airports.
PATCH: What cities not currently served by MacArthur are among the most requested by travelers?
TR: Definitely Myrtle Beach! We also have many requests for flights to Albany, Boston and a direct flight to Las Vegas. We would also like to see flights to Canada or perhaps even some Caribbean islands.
PATCH: Are Long Island businesses making enough use of the airport?
TR: As I mentioned earlier, we have been working with the LIA and ABLI in an effort to create a strong alliance. Both those groups have huge followings among Long Island businesses. But we do have many business travelers that do business in Florida, Chicago and Philadelphia that are using the airport.
PATCH: Are there any plans to refurbish the side of the airport opposite the Southwest gates as a means to attract other airlines?
TR: This is something we are always looking at. We keep an eye on our enplanement numbers to see if we can justify the need. We can also look at what grants are available for improvements as well. But if we did have an airline interested in serving the airport, we do have the ability to make use of some of the Southwest gates.