Haven't wrote one of these in awhile, when you go on biz trips as much as I do who the hell has the time and airports like BWI, CLE, ORF, BUF, and RDU are pretty dam boring. Being that Islip Long Island MacArthur now has a brand new terminal I thought I'd share with you some thoughts and experiences of the new Southwest Airlines Peter J. McGowan terminal at ISP.
Well first off if any of you have ever flown into ISP you'd know that ISP was nothing special and in fact Southwest wouldn't come to ISP until ISP upgraded its check in, and baggage facilities. ISP had a strange layout, when you walk in you step into a brand new terminal, then into a 40-year-old terminal and finally an 18-year-old terminal. Each part of the terminal was certainly distinct in its own way. Before building the new terminal Southwest used the east concourse gates 12, 14 and 16 and being a smash success at ISP the gate area was always crowed, cramped and always very very very hot. So just about two years ago Southwest ponyed up 50 million dollars and broke ground on their new terminal.
I fly Southwest allot, about twice a month and even more in the spring so I was greatly looking forward to the new terminal and what it was advertised to offer. Now being a total skeptic of anything Islip Town does I had a preconceived notion it wouldn't be anything special, was I wrong. My first trip to the new terminal was a flight to ORF via BWI. If your a business major in college you've certainly have learned of the "WOW" effect. That's what happened to me when I walked into the new terminal back in October. I really was taken back by the size of the terminal; it conveyed a sense of openness not known before at ISP.
As you approach the new terminal you'll notice its connected to the old terminal and in fact the ticket counters for Southwest are still located in the older part of the terminal which was built four years ago. I haven't inquired if Southwest will move its ticket desk or not, I would think they would. When you walk from the ticket counter to the new terminal it almost doesn't look like it’s totally complete. What I mean by this is you have allot of public space but nothing else, no stores, stands, advertisements, nothing! Simply chairs for people waiting to pick up arriving passengers. Originally a TGI Fridays was to be put into part of this area, I’m not sure where that stands but this may be one of the reasons it’s so empty. Even so it's very comfortable and with its 50-foot high ceilings you don't feel cramped at all. Part of the new terminal before the security area includes bathrooms (we didn’t have bathrooms land side before the new terminal), new check in Kiosks, and a lot more curbside check in.
From the ticket desk you take a short walk to the security checkpoint, now we all know going through security blows because of the long lines but ISP has built one of the largest TSA checkpoints I've seen. In fact it’s larger then AA's at JFK, and some of AA's checkpoints at MIA, I mean it’s big! After you check in you have a large flight of stairs and an escalator to go up to the gate area, elevators are also available if you wish. Upon stepping off the escalator once again you'll notice the feeling of openness throughout the gate area. In fact I'd go as far as saying it seems like there’s allot of wasted public space, but again the building is new and things might get put into place later on.
The gate areas can only be described as "great". You almost feel like you are in a much bigger city then little old Islip. Southwest now has four gates at Islip that can accept much larger aircraft then the 737, ISP was thinking ahead. One thing you'll notice at ISP is the new windows, there floor to ceiling windows and they wrap around the entire building. The views of the airport are fantastic and the windows are very lightly tinted so you can take some pretty decent pics through the glass.
Now as for shops and food ISP has really upgraded itself. If you bored and want to go shopping they've opened an MSNBC shop which is on par with anything you'll find in a major hub and another gift shop with some goodies from Long Island both are bright, have a great selection, and are roomy enough so your roller doesn't knock into everything.
Airport food generally isn't the greatest especially in small regional airports and certainly the selection isn't that good either but at ISP you really have some great choices and the food is just as good as the choices. For starters the food court while not that big offers Mama Lombardi's Pizza (owned by the same famous Mama Lombardi's of Long Island), which offers you a variety of Italian choices to eat in or take on board, I like the veal cutlet hero, its Molto Buon (that’s very good in Italian). Then you have A&W root beer which serves up some good hamburgers and even better root beer floats, I told you I travel a lot out of ISP. You also have Spido’s which offers a healthily selection of salads and sandwiches, I didn’t try them, lol. Lastly my favorite place at ISP is Maggie O’Shea’s bar and Grill. They actually deconstructed an Irish bar from Ireland brought it to Long Island and put it in the airport. It’s a great bar with plenty of places to sit, and the food and drink are tasty and filling. Just don’t drink too much or Southwest won’t let you get onboard, no it hasn’t happen to me……..yet.
Overall the new terminal at ISP is simply fantastic and makes traveling out of long Island even more of a pleasure then it was before. The feeling of space, well lit interior, retail and food service make waiting for a flight just as good as the flight. Its interesting to note every time I’m waiting online to board a Southwest flight and you have people getting off an arriving flight you’ll hear comments like “where are we”, “wow they really changed the place”, “man I can’t believe this is MacArthur”. Little old Islip is no longer little old Islip.
[Edited 2004-11-12 00:13:00]