After years of delays and four opening days later, the new terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport has finally opened. And if the interior photos and restauranteurs who have set up inside the airport give any indication, then the Crescent City finally has an airport that welcomes rather than underwhelms visitors.
The old airport terminal was 50 years of hodgepodge planning. Terminals were added, upgraded, closed, upgraded again, and renovated. With multiple security checkpoints, scattershot parking, and lackluster food options, there was little positive to say about the old airport terminal.
In the old terminal, you were lucky if you could find hot food, mixed in amongst the Hudson Newses, in any given concourse. The food options were so bad that Eater, instead of having an airport food guide like they did for other airports, just recommended visitors eat at restaurants near the airport. In the new terminal, promising options from local chefs abound. First, there are the national chains like Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A. Then there’s local spots like Folse Market from chef John Folse, Emeril’s Table from Emeril Lagasse, a MoPho outpost from Michael Gulatta, Mondo from Susan Spicer, as well as a Café du Monde so you can get your beignet fix at the airport. And good beignets, not whatever the ones they had at the old terminal were. There is also a large mural honoring the late Leah Chase inside Leah’s Kitchen.
The layout of the new terminal is much more streamlined. Instead of individual security checkpoints for each concourse, there will now be one large security checkpoint with many more lanes. There will be three concourses, A, B, and C with 6, 14, and 15 gates respectively. Like at the old terminal, there will be short term and long term parking garages adjacent to the new terminal. Additionally, there will be a separate area for taxis and rideshares to stage while waiting for fares.
Even with the new terminal opening, traffic will be a problem for the foreseeable future. Currently, there are flyovers from Interstate-10 to the old terminal. There are no such flyovers currently in place. The state did not allocate the funds to build them until well after construction on the terminal had begun. So they will not be completed until 2023. So passengers arriving on I-10 from New Orleans will have to make their way through three traffic lights on the heavily congested Loyola Drive. Passengers coming from Baton Rouge will have to navigate two stoplights and an already congested off-ramp. So while the new terminal will be a boon to New Orleans, it’s going to take longer to navigate in the short-term. At least now, there’s good beignets to soothe the souls of stressed travelers.