Sen. Schumer pushes to make MacArthur Airport international, add carriers

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RONKONKOMA, Suffolk County (PIX11) – If one spends enough time at McArthur Airport in Suffolk County, they will soon realize that it’s not a busy place.

Which is why Senator Charles Schumer says, “It’s a great airport and we are doing everything we can to help it grow in difficult times, when airlines are cutting back in flights in a variety of different ways.”

The number of daily flights at MacArthur currently stands at 20, according to officials.  This is down dramatically from their 2006 high of 46.  The nearly 60% drop in flights is forcing a thorough examination of other alternatives.  One of the most viable, is to rekindle flights to the Caribbean.  The two primary locations are Aruba and the Bahamas, “So today we are starting a campaign to get customs and border patrol to allow international flights here at MacArthur,” said Senator Schumer at a news conference with various officials.

Schumer is working with the federal government for the addition of a customs area to allow international flights and says that there are two low-budget carriers that are interested.

The move is designed to not only increase traffic, but to also lure major carriers.  In the midst of those name beings being tossed around as potential carriers is one heavyweight in the industry: “Once we have this facility set we’re going to go after the big fish like JetBlue,” said Senator Schumer.

JetBlue is already spending more than $200 million for its new terminal at JFK. The Terminal 5-International will help consolidate the 150 to 167 domestic and international flights at JFK under one terminal by 2015.

JFK is a slot-controlled airport, meaning only a certain number of flights daily.

This said, a company spokesperson did admit there has been dialogue with various airports in the past, including MacArthur.  However, when pressed the spokesman added, “We have no official plans at this point to grow into McArthur.  However, we are a growing airline looking at opportunities where we can grow.”

Following Monday’s news conference, PIX 11 News visited Royal Holiday Travel in Sayville. The agency president Louis Fenech said that in the past competition drove airfares down.

Time these days are different, “Generally if there are more airlines, then there is more competition and the prices should come down.    Unfortunately, right now the market is not being driven by competition.  The airlines basically are charging what they want,” said Fenech.

A travel expert for more than 40 years, Fenech says that the addition of airlines will provide savings for travelers elsewhere, “The thing that it will do, give people more convenience, it will save them money because they won’t have to take limousines into the city to the big airports, parking fees, etc.”