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Of Music and Flying - New Orleans' New Terminal

The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport cut the ribbon on its new $1.3 billion passenger terminal this week. All 16 airlines serving New Orleans are now operating out of the new terminal and the old building has closed. The new terminal has 35 gates in three concourses, and new car parks for short and long-term use. Travellers will find 40 food, beverage and retail concessions after passing through security along with free Wi-Fi and device chargers at half of the seats in gate areas.

In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf coastline resulting in massive destruction and loss of life. The airport played a vital role in evacuating over 30,000 evacuees to safety. For three days, Armstrong International Airport was the busiest airport in the world. Commercial flights resumed service in September 2005, while the airport continued to play a variety of support roles in the rescue and recovery effort of the region. As part of the rebuilding across the area, on April 17, 2013, the airport announced its decision to move forward with a Long-Term Strategic Development Plan to construct a new terminal. The ‘Northside Alternative’ was chosen as the most feasible option for the new facility.

The new terminal is on the north side of the airport, on the other side of the main runway from its older counterpart

In 2014, the Hunt, Gibbs, Boh Metro Joint venture was awarded to serve as the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) for the North Terminal project - under a CMAR, the contractor is brought in during the design process to provide input on constructability and phasing. By choosing a CMAR, the construction manager is at risk for delivering the project at a maximum guaranteed price and by a certain date.

So named because of the location, on the other side of the main runway from the old terminal, construction of the North Terminal Project was commemorated with a ground-breaking ceremony held on January 14, 2016. The new terminal was designed by acclaimed architect Cesar Pelli of Pelli Clarke Pelli, Manning Architects and the Crescent City Aviation Team, a joint venture of Leo A. Daly Company and Atkins North America, Inc.

Left: landside approach roads are wider and more efficient

The new thirty-five (35) gate replacement terminal will improve the passenger experience with a consolidated checkpoint offering greater ease and efficiency for passengers going through security and an in-line baggage system where passengers will just drop off their checked baggage at the ticket counters. Other amenities include an attached multi-storey car park along with surface parking and concessions located down the centre of the concourse to allow passengers to see their gate while enjoying a taste of New Orleans or picking up that last minute souvenir.

As well as the new terminal, the airport’s $1.029 billion capital program includes projects such as the airfield lighting vault relocation and FAA navigational aids relocations, construction of a storm water pump station, and a new on-airport roadway system. Other projects included in the capital program, which will be funded by third parties, include an aircraft fuel hydrant system, and a flyover interchange access from interstate highway I-10.

On November 6, 2019, the new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport officially opened to the public.

Above: seen just prior to opening, the new ticketing lobby provides a much larger area than its predecessor


In the mid 1930’s, it became apparent to the City of New Orleans that the municipal airport located on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain was no longer large enough to service the City’s growing air transportation needs and expansion of the lakefront facilities was considered too costly. An Aviation Division of the Department of Public Property of the City of New Orleans was formed to coordinate with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA, now the Federal Aviation Administration - FAA) to establish a New Orleans Airport.

Before any construction began, the United States became involved in World War II on December 7, 1941. The land for Moisant Field was taken over by the U.S. Government for use as an air base. Facilities were constructed on this land by the Federal Government and were used by the Army until the end of the war in August 1945. In 1946, the Federal Government returned the land plus 295 adjacent acres to the City of New Orleans.

In May 1946, commercial air service began at Moisant Field, named after aviation pioneer John Bevins Moisant. Moisant, known as the "King of Aviators," was an American aviator, aeronautical engineer, flight instructor, businessman, and revolutionary. As a pilot, he was the first to conduct passenger flights over a city, as well as across the English Channel, from Paris to London.

The three letter identifier for Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is MSY, which might seem a little odd. The story behind this apparently random letter choice might well be one of the most curious airport codes to be found but it is in fact, quite logical. On the last day of 1910 Moisant was killed after his aircraft crashed at the current location of New Orleans’ major airport. Stock yards for cattle were later built on the site and the owners wanted to honour the memory of the aviator so they called the stock yards the Moisant Stock Yards, or MSY. The city of New Orleans later bought the stock yards for airfield construction and named the completed project Moisant Field. In 1962, Moisant Field was renamed New Orleans International Airport, but the stock yards’ designation still remains in use today.

By January 1947, the airport was considered to be one of the largest commercial airports in the US, encompassing 1,360 acres of land that included three 5,000 foot runways and one 7,000 foot runway. In addition, it was the first airport to install an Instrument Landing System. In 1959, a new terminal and two new concourses were dedicated. The official name of the airport was changed in 1960 from Moisant Field to New Orleans International Airport. The first major expansion occurred in 1974 with the addition of two new concourses at the east end of the main terminal. This brought the total number of gates to 42.

In August 2001, the Airport’s name was changed to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in honour of the famous native-born musician’s 100th birthday.

Above and below: the new terminal's facilities provide a flavoured sample of New Orleans culture

The airport saw a record-breaking 1.28 million passengers travelling through it in May 2019, marking the highest number of passengers ever served in a single month. The figures are 7.4 percent higher than May 2018, and represent over 20,000 more passengers than MSY’s previous record-high month in March of this year.

‘The phenomenal growth we are seeing at our airport is a sign that New Orleans’ economy is thriving in a very real way,’ said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. ‘The continued boost in passengers shows that our economy is diversifying. As we are experiencing this growth, it is important that we have sustainable infrastructure in place to support our residents and visitors. The new airport terminal is the largest infrastructure project for New Orleans since the Superdome, and we look forward to providing our residents and visitors with a new and improved airport experience when the new terminal opens’.

Much of the increase in passengers can be attributed to the new flight frequencies and destinations added since the beginning of the year. Southwest Airlines remains the Airport’s largest airline representing nearly 35 percent of the market share while Spirit is the fastest-growing airline; Spirit began service from New Orleans in 2013 with one daily flight, and now, with four new flights launched in 2019, and one more to begin in October (Nashville), they will serve a total of 21 nonstop destinations.

The airport is led by Director of Aviation Kevin Dolliole (left), who began his aviation career at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport before going on to lead and transform the San Antonio and St. Louis Airports. Now with over 40 years of experience in various facets of the aviation industry, he is once again back at the helm of Armstrong International where he will be managing operational, organizational, and development initiatives like the new $1 billion airport terminal. He serves on the American Association of Airport Executives Policy Review Committee and previously served on the Board of Directors for Airports Consultants Council and the Board of Directors for Airports Council International-North America.

The airport is governed by the New Orleans Aviation Board (NOAB), which was created in 1943 to oversee the administration, operation, and maintenance of the airport. The Board represents the City in all aviation matters in consultation with state, national, and international government agencies. It is an unattached board under the executive branch of the New Orleans City Government and members are appointed by the Mayor of New Orleans with the approval of the City Council. The terms are for five years and they serve without compensation. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman are elected annually by the other Board members.

Current NOAB members:

Chairman Judge Michael G. Bagneris

Vice Chairman Mr. Doug Thornton

Mr. Todd Francis Ms. Ruth Kullman Ms. Ti Martin Mr. Roger H. Ogden Hon. Neil C. Abramson Mr. Gary Smith, Sr. – St. Charles Parish Representative Mr. Joseph Nicolosi, Jr. – City of Kenner Representative

Airlines at MSY:

Air Canada

Air Transat

Alaska Airlines

Allegiant Air

American Airlines

British Airways

Condor Airlines

Copa Airlines

Delta Air Lines

Frontier Airlines


Southwest Airlines

Spirit Airlines

Sun Country Airlines

United Airlines

Vacation Express

All images courtesy of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

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