RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Big changes are coming to a little airport. Millions of dollars in upgrades are in the works for Long Island MacArthur Airport. Is it a safer, stress-free alternative to larger airports in the area?

Ribbon cuttings and ground breakings are becoming routine at Long Island MacArthur Airport. This week, it was a new private aircraft hangar. Recently, it was a new ground transportation center. It’s the little airport with big plans — rebuilding and rebranding.

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“It’s getting people to wake up and say, wow, it’s easier for me to get in a car and travel east and not have to buck traffic going to LaGuardia or JFK, not stand on long lines,” said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter in an interview with CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

Carpenter says it’s no longer a sleepy regional airport on autopilot. It has gone high-tech on disinfection and pathogen reduction units, like hospitals have.

“We’re the first airport in the world to deploy this technology,” said Rob Schneider, of Long Island MacArthur Airport.

And it’s about to get a major upgrade. More than $50 million federal, state and private dollars for a major modernization over the next two years. While the pandemic batters the industry, MacArthur is positioning itself as a safer haven.

“We believe that health and safety is going to be an important thing to get people back on airplanes,” said Shelley LaRose-Arken, the Commissioner of Aviation at MacArthur Airport.

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“Flying out of here really is hassle-free and stress-free, and we think that’s where we hold the competitive edge.” Schneider said.

But it still flies only three airlines with limited east coast non-stop destinations. That will expand, too. Fares could be higher than to and from larger area airports depending upon the time of year.

“It’s more, but I mean, it’s less of drive also,” one traveler said.

“It doesn’t cost more. It’s less,” another traveler said.

“It’s not crazy busy. You get your bags quick, you’re on your flight quick,” another traveler said.

An airport study comparing fares found on average flights in and out of MacArthur are lower than other area airports. Passengers say the stress reduction is priceless.

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