More flights in the offing at NOIA, says official

In an effort to recover from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Aviation Board (NOAB) is planning new incentives to return the airport’s economy to its pre-Katrina level.Sean Hunter, interim director of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, tells the Herald-Guide that loss of airport revenue has received much attention, but with new incentives, more jets and flights are on the way.

“We are concerned about loss of revenue at the airport. In a nutshell the speed of our recovery will determine our success,” Hunter says.

“What we need is more passenger volume, so in an effort to stimulate that we decided to combine airline fees for passenger planes to increase jets and flights.”

According to Hunter, airlines were paying rental fees and landing fees. The airport now combines these fees giving airlines a 50 percent discount.

“The normal rate was $20 per passenger, now it’s $10 and we are basically covering the other half. Airlines have been reluctant to add additional service since Katrina so this is an opportunity for them to come back on board,” Hunter says.

Hunter tells the Herald-Guide that the incentives are based around the airport’s rate structure, “where we take the two rates the airlines are charged into one enplane passenger rate.”

Those rates includes labor, fuel, and flight cost. “We are trying to get back to our pre-Katrina level as far as passengers are concerned. We are functioning right now at about 70 percent,” Hunter says.

Hunter estimates that with the new plan the number of passengers should increase to 100 percent by the year 2008.

“By the time we get up to 100 percent we will have lost about $40 million. We have been making up the deficit with a FEMA loan, but this money has to be paid back,” Hunter says.

Hunter calls the new marketing strategy “Music To Your Eyes” and hopes the incentives will increase new service to the airport, new airlines coming in, and the addition of travel destinations.

The loss of labor, rising fuel costs, and vendors leaving the airport have made it difficult for the airport to return to its pre-Katrina cash flow.


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