How do rational, seemingly level-headed Long Islanders, choose to fly to certain destination from Kennedy or LaGuardia airports, over the tranquility of Islip-MacArthur airport? Am I missing something?
We recently flew down to West Palm Beach, FL, on short notice and booked a Sunday morning departure on Southwest out of MacArthur, securing a direct flight for a reasonable fare. There was very little traffic on a Sunday, and heading east from Massapequa, we arrived in less than a half hour. Quite frankly, I encounter more traffic going from Massapequa to Melville on Route 110 every morning. We pulled into the airport, followed a few simple signs, and arrived at the terminal.
As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for the roar of the planes taking off and landing every now and then, one might think they were at a shopping mall. The access in and out of the airport is simple and well designed. There are no long and winding roads to follow, filled with seemingly endless signage. Other than the traffic light preventing you from crossing over Route 454 from the south, there are virtually no impediments.
Even the most seasoned traveler encounters difficulty navigating the ins and outs of JFK. There are six different color-coded terminals that house 76 different airlines, 21 of them that begin with the letter “A”. Trying to identify where your airline departs from requires a degree in speed reading as the signs seem to fly by.
If you need to park your car at MacArthur, you don’t need a home equity line of credit. Just park in the long-term lot for about $15 per day and walk the roughly 100 yards to the terminal. No car available? Take the LIRR to the Ronkonkoma station, and it’s a $5 cab ride. Parking your car in the multi-level, long-term lot at JFK sets you back $33 per day and is akin to climbing Mount Everest, requiring a Sherpa-led expedition. I’ll bet there are still travelers wandering that parking garage from 1993.
After checking in at the kiosk with the help of a very pleasant Southwest employee, we headed around the check-in counters and into the TSA security area. At first, we thought we were in the wrong place. Don’t get me wrong, everything you have come to expect from the stringent TSA security checkpoints was there—the initial TSA checkers of your ID, the supermarket-like rolling trays that you place your carry-on stuff for examination by the TSA screening agents and, of course, the metal detectors. Everything was in place except, there were exactly 11 people in front of us, split into two lines.
Where was everyone and why were the TSA agents pleasant and accommodating? It was like the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers where everyone was an alien except us. We didn’t even have to use the “TSA Pre-Check” line (which we paid $10 each for) to skip the regular line—there was no wait on the regular line to skip. The entire process, from getting dropped off, procuring our boarding passes, checking in our luggage and proceeding through the TSA screening took 12 minutes. I can’t even get a Whopper with fries at the drive through in 12 minutes.
The TSA recommends that you arrive at least 90 minutes before your scheduled departure for domestic flights. However, you must factor the 60-90 minutes it takes to arrive in the general area surrounding JFK or LaGuardia. Last time I flew out of JFK (it was also Sunday morning), the TSA line was so long, I thought I had already arrived in Disney World and was waiting to get into Space Mountain.
Inside MacArthur, the terminal was bright and cheery and, more importantly, there was space to breathe. We were able to find seats in the waiting area at our departure terminal without feeling like we were just another piece of livestock being herded into a pen. It felt like they were trying to make this a pleasant experience, like they actually wanted you to come back and do it again.
I understand that no airport is perfect and maybe if I flew out of MacArthur 10 times a year I would encounter things differently. For now, if there are flights to where I’m going, I’ll be doing all my shopping at the MacArthur Mall, I mean, all my flying out of Islip-MacArthur airport.