November 19 2014 | Latest NewsBY JEFF ADELSON, The Advocate
Louis Armstrong International Airport will add direct flights to the Midwest and Florida next year through a budget-priced carrier focused on vacation destinations.
With the new Allegiant Air flights, the New Orleans airport will have nonstop flights to a total of 43 destinations, the biggest number yet, Director of Aviation Iftikhar Ahmad said.
The announcement comes as airport officials continue to pursue larger carriers and international flights, hoping to bolster the regional economy by bringing in more visitors. So far, they have racked up mostly small victories, bringing in several new low-cost airlines over the past year, including Spirit Airlines, Alaska Airlines and PeoplExpress.
The Allegiant flights will begin Feb. 5 and will offer service to Orlando, Florida; Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio; and Indianapolis.
There will be two flights a week to each of the new destinations.
The Orlando flights will be offered year-round starting at $45 each way, while the flights to Ohio and Indiana will be seasonal routes that operate from February through the spring, with one-way tickets starting at $85.
Airport officials have been courting Allegiant for the past four years, in part because the company aims at the vacation market rather than business travelers, Ahmad said. That fits with the city’s overall effort to lure more tourists.
Allegiant’s decision to start flights to and from New Orleans “speaks well of the city’s booming economy and its great renaissance,” Ahmad said.
Getting the company to New Orleans was largely a financial matter, and Allegiant Vice President for Business Development Brian Davis said a key factor was the halving of the airport’s per-passenger charges to airlines.
Over the past four years, that cost has dropped from about $16 to about $8. Airport officials have said that lowering those costs is key to attracting more airlines and flights to the city. The planned $500 million-plus North Terminal, which would replace the existing terminal with a more efficient facility, is a part of that effort.