Long Island MacArthur Airport, owned by the Town of Islip, has, since its inception, been caught in a vicious cycle. Airlines have long been reluctant to provide service because of a lack of passengers, while passengers have been reluctant to use the airport because airlines failed to provide the service they sought. During the last half decade, this phenomenon has virtually choked it into nonexistence.
Although 1.8 million passengers in its eastern Nassau and Suffolk County catchment area make an average of 3.7 annual trips, these favorable facts end here, since only 25 percent of them use MacArthur for their travel شركات الشحن. Increasing to 50 percent if only nonstop service is considered, this statistic emphasizes the benefit to carriers if they would provide it.
Indeed, during the five-year period from 2007 to 2012, the number of annual departures declined from 14,784 to 7,930, the steepest reduction of all US mid-sized airfields, virtually reducing the Long Island facility to its 1999 status, the year Southwest Airlines sparked the latest growth cycle.
Aside from being victim to the recession and escalating fuel costs like these other terminals, it has been historically forced to operate in the shadow of the three major New York airports, thus drawing upon much of the same market base, yet it relies almost exclusively on a single carrier, Southwest, for its service. The increasing trend toward airline consolidation furthermore results in fewer potential air service providers, almost all of which have operated from the airport some time in the past, while current fuel prices have rendered their code share regional jet operations unprofitable, prompting the withdrawal of the carriers that had once provided vital hub feed, such as Atlantic Southeast (ASA) to Atlanta, Comair to Cincinnati, and Continental Express to Cleveland.
Electing to deviate from the philosophy of operating from underserved, overpriced, secondary airports upon which it had been founded, and responding to passenger demand for major market presence, Southwest has progressively rebalanced aircraft assets from smaller to larger cities to maximize revenues, but has dismantled much of the Islip market it itself created cultivated in the process.
Countering this assessment, Southwest indicated that this strategy reflected systemwide industry changes and not those restricted to MacArthur.
The Long Island market involves factors beyond systemwide industry trends, however. Spurred by the additional slots it obtained at La Guardia Airport after its AirTran acquisition, Southwest itself increased frequencies and destinations from the higher-yield and -load factor airport.
Having operated a peak of 34 daily departures from Long Island, it gradually reduced its presence, discontinuing service to two of its focus cities-namely, Nashville and Las Vegas–thus removing the flight connections they represented.
By the time its Chicago-Midway service had been discontinued and shifted to La Guardiia in June of 2012, its number of flights had been almost halved, to 18.
While it had been credited with resurrecting the airport, it had, in many ways, now become the obstacle to its growth. Because of its dominance and low fare structure, it served as a deterrent to other airlines contemplating service there, particularly on routes, such as those to Florida, on which it holds a monopoly. Yet, like walking a tightrope, Town of Islip officials have consistently made considerable efforts to maintain a close relationship with the airline, since the airport’s future hinges upon it.