December 15, 2006 @ 12:00 am EST
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Our speaker at LIMBA, this morning was Loretta Hohmann, from Southwest Airlines. Loretta was not scheduled to speak, but the person who was supposed to speak was flying in from the west and was weather delayed. As it turns out, it didn’t matter. Ms Hohmann is very knowledgeable. Ms Hohmann began by speaking about the relationship the Southwest has built with the Town of Islip. From the beginning SW wanted major improvements at the airport. These airport upgrades would be paid for by SW and the improved property would remain in the ownership of the Town. This proved to be very attractive to the Town of Islip and satisfied the physical plant needs that SW said it needed to operate.
Ms Hohmann then spoke about the community involvement that the airline considers important from the standpoint of good community relations and a sense of corporate citizenship. In each of SW’s markets they have a program called “home for the holidays”. This program allows elderly people of limited means to travel at the airlines expense during holiday periods to see family members. They select one family from each of their markets.
She spoke briefly about a company BLOG, where information can be exchanged on line. It is located at www.blogsouthwest.com
Southwest likes to operate out of smaller airports, whenever possible. According to Hohmann the landing fees are lower and the efficiency of moving aircraft on time is better. Islip-MacArthur certainly fits that airport profile, and they are happy with the arrangements they have made there. The company maintains an excellent cooperative relationship with other carriers. Sometime they help each other out with equipment and services, such as snow removal.
In addition to airport selection, Southwest attributes some of their financial success to standardized aircraft. If a plane is pulled out of service, the replacement plane will be like the one that was sidelined and the crew is capable of flying it.
During the Q&A portion of the program I asked if a light rail system would be built to tie the terminal to the LIRR train station. Ms Hohmann said the original plan was to put the terminal next to the rail system, and that plan was blocked by the Town. However they have a shuttle bus to the train that costs $5 that is operated by Colonial Coach.
When we closed the meeting Southwest raffled off a ticket for any place in the US that is served by the company.
We welcome Southwest and we pledged to support any reasonable enhancements that they think they should be made to serve the region better.