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Theresa Rizzuto, MacArthur Airport manager

April 18, 2008 @ 12:00 am EDT


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This morning we had the distinct pleasure of greeting the new Commissioner of Long Island MacArthur Airport (LIMA), Teresa Rizzuto. Her disarmingly modest and self-deprecating manner temporarily masks the display of a deep knowledge of the airline industry, garnered through over two decades of experience. That experience started with slinging eighty pound bags as a ramp service worker for United Airlines (UAL) in 1992. In that day, the petite powerhouse needed to lift twice as many bags as her male counterparts to be taken seriously. After having gained entry to the business through UAL’s diversity program, her hard work and talent drove her up the ranks, eventually supervising UAL’s operations at Newark Airport, in charge of a $30 million dollar budget, and a terminal that served six airlines.

She capped her stay at UAL with an assignment as hub manager at Dulles International in Washington DC, leading a staff of 1,600.  Taking some time off the flight line in 1993, she stepped into her family’s orthotics business in Freeport in the role of Operations VP, before bringing here fashionably-shod feet to LI MacArthur Airport in February of this year. Her talk opened with a recap of her experience and an expression of delight at coming back to Long Island after her stint in the Garden State, followed up by a description of the economic importance that LIMA has to the Town of Islip and Long Island. The meat of her presentation concerned the plans that she and the Town have to revitalize the airport, which has been underutilized in recent history. Some of her goals are adding carriers, redeveloping the west side of the airport, ( where I once took BOCES Airframe and Powerplant vocational courses, longer ago than I care to remember), renovating the western portion of the main terminal, adding wi-fi to the airport, and marketing LIMA as a more convenient alternative to the Port Authority Airports.

Ms. Rizzuto also wants to accomplish these goals while keeping the airport the good neighbor that it is today. She emphasized the necessity of picking the right carriers to partner with, that will be in it for the long haul, and be a true partners, where the destination compliments the carrier.

Once again, the Q and A was lively, and I will summarize and paraphrase here:

Q: What are the largest kinds of aircraft that we could expect to see? 
A: LIMA is capable of handling large aircraft such as the 767 and 777, but it would probably not be economical for carriers to use those types at LIMA. Most likely, we could see the mid range Airbuses, and 757s, and the forthcoming 787 Dreamliner.

Q: What is keeping LIMA from becoming an International Airport?
A: A chicken and egg problem. Customs needs to establish a facility here for clearance, and needs the traffic to justify it, and the carriers need the clearance facility. A novel approach would be to introduce flights to and from Pre-Clearance locations, such as the US Virgin Islands, Shannon Airport in
Ireland, and several other locations. These possibilities are being researched.

Q: What impact does the Port Authority’s marketing of Stewart Airport have on LIMA?
A: Stewart’s marketing machine is in full gear, and they have a longer runway, having been a former Air Force Base. LIMA has better transportation infrastructure surrounding it, such as the LIRR and is closer to NYC than Stewart. The Port Authority also has deeper pockets to promote and improve Stewart.

Q: Why is it more expensive to fly out of LIMA?
A: The carriers generally run smaller aircraft out of LIMA, and as such have to spread expenses over fewer seats than those run out of the Port Authority airports. One of our audience members contributed the suggestion that the cheaper price of a NYC airport ticket is offset by the expense ( car service )
and aggravation ( traffic ) of getting into a Port Authority airport, and no real savings is realized.

Q: What do you see for the airline industry in the near future?
A: The industry is completing another life cycle, where there will be a few carriers left after the mergers of Delta and Northwest, plus she sees some other large carrier mergers in the offing. After that, there will be another period
where startups working the seams of the industry come alive and grow.

Ms. Rizzuto’s visit was warmly received by our group and we look forward to her fantastic attitude infusing the airport with a long overdue shot of enthusiasm and accomplishment. We look forward to her next visit, where I’m sure she will regale us with tales of airport improvements, and adventures in the airline industry.

Recap by Craig Plunkett of Fire Island Wireless.

Pictured: Bill Miller,  Teresa Rizzuto and Craig Plunkett