On Nov. 6, the new 35-gate terminal at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport officially opened, closing down the previous location. Increasing both in size and in offerings for food and retail, the terminal is designed to create an improved experience for travelers in and out of the city. Even though travelers may need time to get used to all the new aspects of the airport, it offers them a chance to experience the vibrant nature of New Orleans before even stepping outside.
“It’s a brand new terminal,” says Dr. Yvette Green, Interim Director for the School of Hotel Restaurant Tourism Administration at the University of New Orleans. “It’s beautiful and very open, airy, bright, a definite departure from what the old terminal looked like. With that, there’s a lot of promise for great things.”
One of these “great things” specifically would be the increased focus on New Orleans culture shown in the new terminal’s restaurants, shops and venues. The goal, according to the new terminal’s official website, is “showing off the spirit of New Orleans throughout the facility.”
“The city of New Orleans is a world-class city,” says Green. “With the new airport, we’re now providing a world-class experience for our visitors as they first enter the city. The airport is generally the first point of entry for our visitors, and now these visitors have an opportunity to have a uniquely New Orleans experience as they enter the airport.”
This experience is created not only through restaurants that serve traditional New Orleans cuisine, but also with popular New Orleans retail stores, in addition to the usual airport offerings. The inclusion of live music into the new terminal will also help to bring out the spirit of the city.
“[Many of] the restaurants are local New Orleans restaurants that you would recognize,” says Green, listing names such as Angelo Brocato, Leah Chase’s restaurant Dooky Chase’s, Emeril Lagasse’s restaurant Emeril’s Table, The Ye ’Olde College Inn and The Munch Factory. These, Green mentions, come in addition to old New Orleans airport favorites, such as The Lucky Dog and Mondo’s.
“Another thing that makes it uniquely New Orleans is that there’s a live music venue in our airport,” says Green. “So as travelers come in they’re hearing live New Orleans jazz playing. The airport has [also] increased more of the retail side. You’ll see the Fleurty Girl shop, which is definitely a New Orleans shop. And then you’ll see the Folce Market.” These new, New Orleans specific options will also stand alongside traditional airport stands such as cosmetic counters, newsstands and even a sports apparel store.
Something else that sets this new experience apart from that of the previous terminal is that all these stores and restaurants will be available to travelers regardless of their gate assignment.
“The nice thing is that once you get past the security area, you have an opportunity to travel from either of the concourses,” says Green. “You can have a chance to visit any of those concession stands. [In] the old terminal, you had to either be on concourse B or concourse C, but you had to go out of security in order to get back into the other concourse. So this offers a traveler an opportunity to experience any of these concessions.”
But despite all these new perks, the transition from one terminal to another can cause problems, especially as travelers learn to navigate changes like a new dedicated highway exit. But Green believes that any of these rough patches will be figured out as time goes on.
“With any new system, a learning curve is going to have to occur,” Green says. “Once travelers, both local travelers departing the New Orleans airport and new visitors coming in, know the [new] system and see the signage, I believe that the new kinks will work themselves out. For local travelers departing the airport, at one point we had a dedicated exit off of I-10. That dedicated exit no longer goes to the airport, so they’re gonna have to go down to the Loyola exit. So that’s going to take time for people to get used to.”
A true test of travelers’ ability to navigate the new terminal will come as the holiday season rolls around, bringing with it an increase in movement. But Green doesn’t think that this should be an issue either.
“I think the New Orleans airport is going to have everything under control for the upcoming holiday traffic,” Green says. “The airport opened up early in November, and so I believe that the airport has enough capacity in order to work out any of these new system situations so that they can get things going for the holiday season. I think it’s going to run great.”
Even despite these assurances, students may still be nervous about experiencing the new terminal at such a busy time of year. To them, Green recommends staying calm and treating their airport experience like any other heavily trafficked time.
“All the tips [I have are the ones] that you would normally have for any holiday season,” Green says. “If you’re going to be traveling, make sure that you confirm your flight ahead of time. Do your online check-in if you have the capacity to do that. Make sure you get to the airport in plenty of time to get your parking. There’s tons of new parking for the airport. Get to the airport with plenty of time to get through security, and then get to your gate. And then enjoy all of the new opportunities that you have for concessions once you’re at the gate. Then have a fantastic holiday.”