Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, MSY, is located in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, United States 10 miles west of the New Orleans central business district. The airport's official address is 900 Airline Drive in Kenner, Louisiana, which is in another county from the airport's owner, the City of New Orleans. The airport was formerly known as Moisant Field hence the MSY designation, and it is also known as Louis Armstrong International Airport and New Orleans International Airport. On July 11, 2001, the airport was renamed after jazz musician Louis Armstrong in honor of the centennial of his birth. MSY opened after World War II, replacing the older New Orleans Lakefront Airport (which kept the NEW and KNEW airport codes and now serves general aviation) as the city's main airport. The airport was originally named after daredevil aviator John Moisant, who died in 1910 in an airplane crash on this land (which was devoted to farming at the time). Its IATA code MSY was derived from Moisant Stock Yards, as Lakefront Airport retained the "NEW" code. Starting in 1946, and for the next thirteen years, passengers arrived and departed from a large, hangar-like makeshift structure, until a new main terminal complex debuted in 1959 which is still the core of the current terminal complex.
At an average of elevation of just 4.5 feet above sea level, MSY is the 2nd lowest-lying international airport in the world, behind only Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport in the Netherlands, which lies eleven feet below sea level. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, MSY served 9.7 million passengers per year, nearly all of them non-connecting. In 2011, it served 8,382,236 passengers, an increase of 4.3% over 2010.
During the late 1960s formal government-sponsored studies were undertaken to evaluate the feasibility of relocating Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to a new site similar to efforts that were ultimately successful in Houston (George Bush Intercontinental Airport) and Dallas (Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport). This attempt got as far as recommending a site in New Orleans East; a man-made island was to be created south of I-10 and north of U.S. Route 90 in a bay of Lake Pontchartrain. However, in the early 1970s it was decided that the current airport should be expanded instead, leading to the construction of a lengthened main terminal ticketing area, an airport access road linking the terminal to I-10, and the present-day Concourses A and B. New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, in office from 1986 to 1994, later reintroduced the idea of building a new international airport for the city, with consideration given to other sites in New Orleans East, as well as on the Northshore in suburban St. Tammany Parish. Only a couple months before Hurricane Katrina's landfall, Mayor Ray Nagin again proposed a new airport for New Orleans, this time to the west in Montz, Louisiana. These initiatives went nowhere. As of 2013, there is significant new talk of building a completely new terminal complex on the same airport grounds, but given the current facility's under-utilization this is by no means a sure thing. In the meantime, there are facelifts of the 2 terminals departures and arrivals areas as well as facades. Of note, are the ticket counters being moved further forward to accommodate new baggage screening equipment.
Historically, Eastern Air Lines provided extensive service from MSY, including Boeing 727 Whisperjet service to Dallas, Tampa, and Miami, as well as to New York City and Atlanta. Utilizing such aircraft as 727s, Douglas DC-8s, and DC-10s, National Airlines at different times served Miami, Amsterdam, Tampa, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. Through 1979, Southern Airways Douglas DC-9s frequented Armstrong International, a busy stop on its regional short-haul network. Delta Air Lines was another leading carrier at MSY, and for years carried more passengers out of New Orleans than any other airline. Delta is now the #2 carrier at MSY in terms of passengers with Southwest Airlines now carrying the most passengers here. MSY was also the hub for short-lived Pride Air, an airline which operated for three months in 1985 coast-to-coast, using Boeing 727's. There is currently no regularly scheduled wide-body service into Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
Before Hurricane Katrina, regularly scheduled international services from Armstrong International were provided by Air Canada to Toronto and Grupo TACA to San Pedro Sula in Honduras. Historically, MSY has hosted routes to nearly thirty nonstop international destinations, several of them intercontinental. In the early 1980s, the city was a stop on the British Airways flight between London and Mexico City. The Lockheed L1011 aircraft used for the route landed in New Orleans to pick up passengers and fuel. National Airlines also flew nonstop to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Paris from MSY, using DC-10 aircraft. At different times Eastern Air Lines offered nonstop service to Caracas, Venezuela and Panama City, Panama. Continental Airlines offered flights to Mexico City and Cancun in the 1980s, as did AeroMexico. TWA offered Mexico City service with McDonnell Douglas MD-80 equipment in the 1990s and into the early 2000.
Delta inaugurated the airline's first international services in the 1950s with flights from New Orleans to Havana, Cuba, and Montego Bay, Jamaica, continuing to Caracas, Venezuela. Delta operated DC-8 aircraft from MSY to Havana continuing on to Haiti and the Dominican Republic until the Cuban Revolution. Delta service from MSY to Jamaica and Venezuela, including Maracaibo and Caracas, and to San Juan, Puerto Rico, were discontinued gradually between the mid-1970s to 1980 as Delta refocused their strategy away from the Caribbean.
VIASA served New Orleans in the 1960s, offering Convair 880 jet service to Venezuela. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, Aviateca, LACSA, TAN/SAHSA and TACA provided both nonstop and same-plane direct services to several Central American destinations, including Belize City, Guatemala City, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, La Ceiba, Roatan, San Salvador, Mérida, Cancun, and San Jose. TACA was even headquartered in New Orleans, before returning its headquarters to Central America in 1982. The networks of essentially all of the aforementioned defunct Central American carriers have, as of today, been absorbed into that of Grupo TACA.
Twice weekly seasonal New Orleans-to-Montego Bay nonstops via the Jamaica Shuttle/Casino Express (typically operated by chartered Boeing 727-200's or 737-300's) operated during most of the 1990s and into the 2000s. Laker Airways operated twice weekly seasonal B727-200 flights between New Orleans and Freeport, The Bahamas, in the early 2000s. acation Express operated twice weekly seasonal charters between New Orleans and Cancun for several years using a mix of B727-200, B737-200, B737-300, and MD-80 equipment. This service was suspended after the company decided to concentrate on selling seats on scheduled flights instead of chartering aircraft.
All international service into MSY was suspended while the FIS facility was closed post-Katrina. The facility reopened to an influx of chartered flights arriving from London, Manchester, Bournemouth, and Nottingham, UK—all carrying tourists in for Mardi Gras and set to depart aboard a cruise liner. On April 7, 2009, it was announced that AeroMexico would begin 6-times weekly nonstop flights between New Orleans and Mexico City on July 6, 2009, with the service operated by Aerolitoral dba AeroMexico Connect. AeroMexico made several changes to its US network in the spring of 2010, and MSY-MEX service was reduced to an intermittent 2-3 times weekly frequency in March of that year. Aeromexico removed the route from their reservation system in June 2010, and the last flight operated on July 26, 2010.
On July 14, 2010, Air Canada announced the resumption of daily nonstop service between Toronto and New Orleans, utilizing Bombardier CRJ-705 equipment (operated by Air Canada Express) with two classes of service. This route started on October 30, 2010. On March 8, 2011, MSY was one of eight cities given approval for charter flights to Cuba. Flights to Cuba have been scheduled on a very limited basis, with the first departure on March 26, 2012, operated by Sky King, Inc., charters and marketed by Cuba Travel USA. In an October 27, 2011, interview, airport director Ahmad confirmed that a new, yet-to-be-announced international destination from MSY would shortly be announced. As of 2013, however there is no international service at MSY besides Air Canada.
Hurricane Katrina was a major turning point in MSY's and the City of New Orleans' history. The airport was closed to commercial air traffic on August 28, 2005, shortly before Katrina struck New Orleans, and it remained closed as floods affected the city. The airport did, however become a shelter and makeshift triage / hospital. The airport had no significant airfield damage and had no standing water in aircraft movement areas although it did sustain damage to its roofs, hangars and fencing. In early September, the airport opened only to military aircraft and humanitarian flights, and served as a staging center for evacuees.
MSY reopened to commercial flights on September 13, 2005, with four flights operated by Delta Air Lines to Atlanta and a Northwest Airlines flight to Memphis. Slowly, service from other carriers began to resume, with limited service offered by Southwest Airlines, Continental Airlines, and American Airlines. Eventually, all carriers announced their return to MSY, with the exception of Frontier, America West Airlines (which merged into US Airways two weeks later) and international carrier TACA. In early 2006, Continental Airlines became the first airline to return to pre-Katrina flight frequency levels, and in September 2006, to pre-Katrina seat capacity levels. MSY served 8,153,511 passengers in 2010, or 83.8% of the pre-Katrina high of 9,733,179 passengers in 2004, as well as the all-time high of 9.9 million passengers who used the airfield in 2000. In May 2010, AirTran announced new daily nonstop service to its hub in Milwaukee utilizing Boeing 717 aircraft and beginning on October 7, 2010.This route marked MSY's first all-new city addition since 1998.
In November 2010, United announced resumption of daily nonstop service to San Francisco, the largest pre-Katrina domestic market that had yet to resume service to New Orleans. On July 16, 2012, Spirit Airlines announced nonstop service from Dallas-Fort Worth to New Orleans, commencing in January 2013. Spirit became the first all-new domestic carrier, and second all-new carrier overall (after WestJet) to announce service to MSY, since 1998.
Less then 2 years later Mother Nature struck MSY again. At about 2:30 EST in the morning on February 2, 2006, a tornado touched down on the grounds of MSY. The damage from the tornado was significant but primarily confined to Concourse C, where American, United, AirTran Airways, and international arrivals were based. Many temporary repairs dating from Hurricane Katrina failed, including one roof patch close to the checkpoint, forcing airlines based in the concourse to relocate operations to vacant gates. Jetways and other ground equipment also sustained damage. The damage was rated by the National Weather Service and the tornado was rated F1.
Louis Armstrong International has two terminals, East and West, connected by a central ticketing alley. Attached are four concourses, A, B, C, and D. Concourse A opened in 1975 and has 6 Gates: A1, A3, A5, A6, A7, A8. This concourse has been indefinitely closed to airline traffic. There are plans to convert Concourse A into airport offices as part of ongoing remodeling efforts to restructure the airport to eventually use a single TSA checkpoint and facilitate a new shopping and concessions area in the current concourse D check-in space. The concourse's fate is under review as traffic growth has exceeded expectations and the concourse may be reopened.
Concourse B opened in 1975 and has 13 Gates: B1 - B13. Concourse B is eventually planned to be utilized only for charter operations, with its scheduled carriers (US Airways, AirTran Airways, and Southwest Airlines) migrating to the newer and under-utilized Concourses C and D. Except customs pre-cleared flights, all nonstop international arrivals are handled by Concourse C which opened in 1991. Frontier, American, Delta Connection and JetBlue operate from here. This concourse also contains both common-use and overflow gates, available for infrequent services and charter flights as well. It was also remodeled in 2007 after the damage of the February 2006 tornado. It has 15 Gates: C1 - C12, C14 - C16. The newest concourse, D, opened in 1997 and houses a Delta Air Lines Sky Club, the sole such airline club remaining at Armstrong. A six-gate rotunda has been built on the end of the concourse. Delta, Air Canada, and United are the main airlines on Concourse D which has twelve operating Gates: D1 - D12.
Some information courtesy: Wikipedia