Mardi Gras Helps Take New Orleans Airport to New Height

Air service at Louis Armstrong International Airport hit its highest level since Hurricane Katrina this month as airlines, particularly Continental Airlines, added flights and seats to accommodate Mardi Gras travelers.

During February, the number of daily flights to and from the airport reached 110, up from 103 in January, while the number of airplane seats reached 13,465, up from 12,641 in January, according to figures released by the airport.

Continental increased its service to Cleveland, Houston, and Newark, N.J., during the month to accommodate increased Mardi Gras and convention travel. This week, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is hosting the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society's annual conference, which is expected to bring more than 20,000 people to the city.

Activity at Louis Armstrong is expected to dip again in March, when the total number of daily flights falls back to 109 and the number of seats is projected to be 13,106.

But the debut of a new airline this summer promises to bolster activity on a permanent basis.

ExpressJet Airlines, an upstart airline based in Houston, will add 12 nonstop daily flights to six U.S. cities from Louis Armstrong beginning in May, becoming the first new airline to add service to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.

The addition of ExpressJet service this summer will bring the airport to 121 daily flights, or 75 percent of its pre-Katrina flights, and 13,706 seats, or 66 percent of its pre-Katrina seats.

Atlanta and Houston are the cities to which New Orleans flights most frequently connect.

This month, airlines operated 13 daily flights to and from Atlanta, which accounted for 1,583 daily seats.

Nine daily flights, or 1,183 seats, fly between Louis Armstrong and the William P. Hobby Airport in Houston. Thirteen other flights, or 1,888 seats, fly between Louis Armstrong and Houston Intercontinental Airport.

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