Last weekend's Essence Music Festival pushed passenger traffic at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to one of its highest levels since Hurricane Katrina.
The Transportation Security Administration processed 15,767 passengers through airport security on Sunday and 15,472 passengers on Monday, making those the second and third busiest departure days at the airport since the storm. At some points on Sunday and Monday, wait times at security checkpoints were more than 20 minutes.
The busiest day for departures since Katrina was May 7, when 15,868 passengers traveled through the airport after the second weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. On a normal Sunday before Katrina, the airport saw about 17,500 passengers leave the city.
"We are delighted to see that passenger numbers continue to climb toward pre-K levels," said Sean Hunter, the airport's director of aviation. "This is a key indicator of our region's economic recovery. We commend the airlines for their role in the recovery."
To accommodate the surge in traffic, Southwest Airlines added five round trips on Sunday, one each to Nashville, Dallas and Orlando and two to Houston.
After Jazzfest and Essence Festival, top travel days since Katrina were March 27 and Nov. 13, which coincided with the meetings of the American College of Cardiology and the National Association of Realtors.
Currently, Armstrong International has service to 37 destinations on 123 daily flight departures with 14,276 seats.
87 days after reopening to commercial airline service, New Orleans has brought back 60 of its previously scheduled 166 daily departures, or 36 percent of its load.
Hundreds of people have been forced to make travel changes in the week before the busy Labor Day holiday weekend.
About 7.8 million passengers passed through Armstrong's terminal in 2005, down from 9.8 million in 2004.
Air service at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport continues to rise on the wings of its most dominant airlines. Some carriers have seized upon the recovery period to gain a...