Take It Nice and Easy

Airport responds quickly to early challenges, peak travel


It is the day before Thanksgiving, and how many of us are feeling completely calm and relaxed right now? In reality, many of us are reading this on our phones waiting to board a plan, in the guest room avoiding Uncle Ted or in line at the grocery store. The holidays bring with them a lot of stress, especially when your celebrations involve travel. The best gift you can give yourself is to plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get to your destination, a strategy that seems to be working well for the new Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).

MSY officials have been advising travelers to arrive to the airport two hours and thirty minutes before their flight is scheduled to depart during the peak Thanksgiving travel time. Officials anticipate there will be more than 360,000 passengers using MSY this week, culminating in the last of the nine peak days on Dec. 2. Today will be a major spike that will continue through Thanksgiving morning.

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As the airport closes out on its first month at the new terminal, officials are confident they are improving operations and will have decreasing pain points.

When the terminal first opened, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was not able to move all of its equipment from the old terminal to the new one. As a result, many departing passengers took to social media to complain about long wait times at the consolidated security checkpoint. Now, TSA has all 15 lanes open, one more than existed at the old terminal. TSA also reported earlier this week that wait times were around 10 minutes.

“The TSA is now equipped to where they need to be to respond as needed to blips in our loads through the airport, or peaks in our loads though the airport,” said Kevin Dolliole, MSY’s director of aviation.

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Another early major issue for departing passengers was arriving to their destinations without their checked luggage. Dolliole said those computer system issues have been worked out. Still, as a general travel best practice, remember to pack a change of clothes, your prescription medication, toothbrush, phone charger and book worth reading in your carry-on item.

For those passengers arriving at the airport, hours-long rideshare lines greeted them along with the live jazz. Dolliole said those growing pains are being ironed out as well by tweaking road signage and working closely with the companies.

“Uber, Lyft, to their credit, recognized their operation and how it impacted airports around the country, so they introduced a new system for airports, that would work in airports,” said Dolliole. “It’s a pin match system where it’s almost like a cab stand. Instead of being given a vehicle type and driver that you go off and look for, you actually go out to a queue and once you’re at the head of the line with your pin number, you take the next available vehicle. It’s new to them, this physical space was new to them.”

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The airport designated specific areas for each of the two major rideshare apps. The pickup locations are on the middle curb, with Lyft at Zones 1 and 2, and Uber at Zones 3 and 4. MSY also has a searchable facilities map to help travelers find their way around.

For people going to pick up folks from the airport, you can park in the short-term garage for free for the first 30 minutes. Time your pick up well and you can prevent driving around in literal circles.

So, with a little bit planning, a lot of patience and some spending money to try those new restaurants at MSY, you can be thankful for your holiday travel.


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