A rendering of the new terminal, which is set to be completed in 2018. // © 2016 Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Feature image (above): An overhaul at New Orleans’ airport will result in better traffic flow and less congestion. // © 2016 Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Construction has begun on a roughly $800 million terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY), an upgrade that will result in streamlining the security process; providing more restaurants, parking spaces and facilities; and helping to lower flight costs, says Iftikhar Ahmed, airport aviation director for MSY.
What’s more, the new terminal is projected to have a $3.2 billion annual economic impact on the city’s tourism, according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The North Terminal will be built on 65 acres on the north side of the current airport’s main runway. It is scheduled to be finished in the fall of 2018, in time for the city’s tricentennial. The addition will be constructed independently of the present airport.
“There is no disruption for passengers anywhere in the process,” Ahmed said.
The new terminal will feature two concourses with 30 gates, a consolidated security checkpoint and a more efficient connection between concourses. Currently, passengers who arrive on one level but need to change planes on another concourse must leave security and enter again on the other side of the airport.
“This renovation is going to make security lines a lot easier,” Ahmed said. “We can open 17 security lanes at once, if needed. It’s going to make the travel experience much better.”
Baggage transport will be streamlined as well, and the number of restroom facilities will triple.
The terminal will also be closer to Interstate 10 — it currently faces Airline Highway, which runs perpendicular to I-10 — meaning better access into and out of the airport with fewer delays due to street traffic.
In addition to passenger convenience, Ahmed says that the terminal will offer a better experience for passengers. The open floor plan, additional Cajun and Creole food choices and occasional live music will showcase the rich culture of New Orleans.
“Tourism is about experience,” Ahmed said. “When tourists land in 2018, they will experience the sights and sounds of Louisiana from the moment they enter the airport terminal.”
The current terminal offers 42 gates, with only 24 of those leased to airlines, Ahmed says. Airlines have requested 26 gates for the new terminal, but 30 will be built.
“All of these things will make the airport experience more pleasant,” he said. “In addition, it is going to make it cheaper.”
According to Ahmed, in 2014, the airport charged airlines $16.35 per passenger to have a gate lease, which kept low-cost carriers out of the market.
“It puts a damper on the seat capacity coming into the market,” he said.
The enhanced airport will also require less maintenance and utility costs than the current outdated terminal facility, according to the New Orleans mayor’s office, and the consolidated loading dock will improve security and reduce costs there, as well.
Ahmed believes the new terminal will now cost airlines about $7.50 per passenger, which “leaves a lot of meat on the bone.”
In addition, the new design will allow for general aviation and corporate aviation growth on the south side of the airport.
Ahmed says MSY serves 81 percent of Louisiana’s commercial air traffic. The airport has been linked to more than $2.6 billion in tourism spending, according to the mayor’s office. In 2013 alone, the airport welcomed more than 9 million passengers.
“We’ve grown 37 percent in passenger volume in the last six years,” Ahmed said. “That’s a major increase.”
MSY began as Moisant Field, named for aviation pioneer John Moisant, who crashed at the site in 1910. After serving as an air base in World War II, the commercial airport opened in the 1940s.
Moisant was renamed Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in 2001, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the jazz musician’s birth. The three-letter identifier — MSY, for Moisant Stock Yards — remains.
The airport is owned by the City of New Orleans and governed by the New Orleans Aviation Board. The North Terminal project is being funded mostly by general airport revenue bonds, which are ultimately paid for by the airlines operating at MSY, along with federal and state grants and capital funds.