Director of Aviation provides update on new Armstrong Airport terminal

Updated: Nov. 15, 2019 at 2:51 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The director of aviation for the New Orleans Aviation Board, Kevin Dolliole, provided an update on progress at the new terminal at Armstrong International Airport:

Dear Community Partners,

Just over a week ago, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) successfully completed an overnight transition from our former terminal to a brand new facility on the other side of the airfield. In a time where many airports in the United States are dealing with aging infrastructure and land constraints, the fact we had the opportunity to build a new terminal from the ground up at no cost to local taxpayers is a major accomplishment for our region.

Since the terminal opened, we welcomed over 310,000 travelers into the new facility, and, on average, we see about 40,000 travelers per day. As you know, airports are very complex operations with over 4,000 employees representing hundreds of different stakeholders spanning across airlines, police, ground transportation operators, skycaps, concessionaires, delivery drivers, custodial staff and parking operators just to name a few. A move of this magnitude can be compared to picking up a small city and moving it to a different location.

Before the new terminal opened, we did our due diligence in conducting simulations and tests of the new systems, modeling traffic patterns, training employees and even inviting the public into the facility so they could learn their way around. However, we knew there could be some adjustments necessary to account for actual human behavior once we began to operate in a real-world environment.

Airports are dynamic environments with systems constantly changing, and this week has been no different. Overall, we are seeing improvements in Airport operations since day 1 as Airport staff, airlines, tenants and passengers familiarize themselves with the new terminal. Moving forward we will continue to make any short-term and long-term adjustments as needed to provide a world-class experience.

I’d like to share a few updates on our progress:

Airport Access

Thanks to the interim improvements DOTD made to the I-10/Veterans/Loyola intersection, travelers have adequate access to the new terminal while DOTD works to complete the interstate flyover in 3-4 years. After observing real-world traffic patterns on opening day, DOTD and the Airport were proactive in identifying and addressing some minor changes to further enhance vehicular flow for passengers traveling to and from the terminal as well as for the community that uses that intersection.

Before the move, passengers frequently saw significant traffic delays trying to access the former terminal on busy weekends. While the new roadway is an improvement, DOTD and the Airport will continue to proactively monitor the flow of motorists and make necessary adjustments to help improve navigation and alleviate congestion.

New Airport Concessions Program

Our completely new concessions program featuring a mix of local and national restaurant and shopping options has been an overwhelming success. Concessionaires reported they have experienced more business than anticipated, and have been flexible in responding to the demand. This validates our unique vision to design a program where most concessions are located down the middle of the concourses post-security where passengers can comfortably enjoy the variety of amenities while staying close to their gates.

Consolidated TSA Checkpoint

TSA completed the installation of 12 out of 15 screening lanes, and expects to have all 15 lanes installed by the end of the week. As you know, we now have a single consolidated checkpoint. While the queuing area may appear to be full because all passengers are now funneling through a single checkpoint, the lines are continuously moving.

Despite contrary reports on Sunday, TSA has reported that wait times did not exceed 45 minutes during that peak period and that almost all were through security in 30 minutes or less. Although these times are not optimal, they will improve once all 15 lanes are functioning. During non-peak periods, TSA’s average wait times remain comparable to what we saw in the former terminal. The Airport is monitoring checkpoint wait times, and will coordinate with TSA as appropriate.

New Rideshare System

Airports across the country are facing challenges with rideshare providers impacting traffic flows around their terminals. We also faced significant challenges with rideshare impact at the former terminal. When the new MSY terminal opened, rideshare providers Uber and Lyft both launched new systems which allow travelers to use a code to take an available car rather than wait to meet a specific driver.

This process is designed to ease curb congestion and lessen wait times. However, the Airport initially experienced some congestion on the arrivals curb near the rideshare queuing lanes as drivers are becoming familiar with the new pick up process and locations. For a positive customer experience, officials from both rideshare providers as well as the Airport staff are continuing to work together to make changes such as installing new signage, enhancing driver and passenger information and stationing additional traffic control personnel in the area. We’ve already seen some improvement and will adjust further if needed.

New Inline Baggage Handling System

Prior to opening the new MSY terminal, the Airport worked with stakeholders to conduct thorough testing and simulations of the baggage handling system. After the new terminal opened, we experienced some issues with the outbound baggage system not operating properly at certain points of the day, which is to be expected when a completely new system is fully launched. That’s why the airport ensured that the baggage system contractors and construction project managers are on site during this initial transition phase. These crews have been working with all airlines throughout the day to respond, identify, and correct issues as they arise, and we’re already seeing improvement to how the system functions.

We are confident that this terminal will deliver on our promise to vastly improve the first and last thing visitors see when they come to this region with many of the features the modern passenger expects such as:

• Electrical outlets available at 50 percent of the seats in the gate hold areas

• Fast, Free Wi-Fi • Water bottle refilling stations post-security

• Mothers Rooms

• A pet relief area post security

• 3 curbside check-in locations with easy access to the Short Term Garage

Beyond all those amenities, the beautiful architecture and the world-class restaurant and shopping options, we are proud to be in the lead among other airports in the country by offering other innovative customer service features:

• The new Park MSY Express Economy Garage now features convenient shuttle service and Complimentary Baggage Check-in allowing outbound passengers to check their luggage from the comfort of their vehicle before parking. This means passengers can catch the shuttle luggage-free and skip the airline ticket counter, and we are just the fourth airport in the country to offer a service like this.

• Our new Long Term and Short Term parking garages are equipped with overhead lights above the parking spaces indicating where spaces are available or occupied. This will reduce the time it takes to find a parking spot and help passengers get to their flight faster. This new technology is completing its calibration phase, and will be up and running in time for the upcoming holiday travel season.

• In the coming weeks, we will be one of about four airports in the country to offer a program allowing customers who are not flying and don’t have a boarding pass the opportunity to visit the restaurants and shops located post security. The MSY Guest Pass will be available 7 days a week from 11 am to 8 pm to individuals who register ahead of time. This way, more people can come out and experience everything this terminal has to offer.

• We are the sixth airport to offer Uber and Lyft’s new systems allowing travelers to use a code to take the next available car in the line rather than wait to meet a specific driver.

We will continue to lean forward as we implement all these new systems, and ask the public to be patient during this transition. As always, your support is greatly appreciated.

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