Know Your NOLA, Travel

A traveler’s guide to New Orleans’ new airport terminal

From traffic to food options, here a few tips for navigating the new MSY.

New Orleans’ new $1 billion airport terminal opens Nov. 6, which means locals will have an entirely new airport to navigate when they catch their next flight out.

I got a chance to check out the near-complete facility in late October. Here are a few tips I have to help you catch your next flight.

Leave for the new airport earlier than normal. Way earlier.

Even if you haven’t been following the terminal opening all that closely, you may be aware of concerns over potential traffic delays. To get to the new airport, drivers will need to take the Loyola Drive exit on Interstate-10 and follow Loyola Drive past the Veterans Boulevard intersection onto the airport access road. Expect to run into day-to-day traffic and a few stop lights along the way. Extra lanes have been added to Loyola Drive to help ease congestion, but officials are warning the public to prepare for increased traffic.

During my recent visit, construction crews were still working on the section of road at the entrance to the airport road, which, quite frankly, was a bit concerning. The bottom line? Prepare for serious traffic with the potential for ongoing road work thrown in the mix. I plan on leaving for the new airport 2-3 hours ahead of my boarding time, especially on weekends and holidays.

You may be wondering why the new terminal doesn’t have a flyover ramp connecting it to I-10 like the current airport does. The reason is that state funding for the $90 million ramp wasn’t approved until well after the city started building the new terminal. It will be another few years before the new flyover ramp is complete.

Consider taking a taxi or rideshare.

No, this isn’t an Uber plug. The reality is most taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers are going to be pretty familiar with getting to and from the new terminal relatively soon after opening. Taxis and rideshares will also have their own dedicated drop-off lanes, intended to make it easier for travelers to hop out and get going. Consider hailing a ride (or have someone drop you off) if you want to get a feel for the new airport route before driving it yourself.

Wednesday, Lyft introduced “Fast Match,” a new pickup feature that matches passengers with the next available driver. If the feature is available, users will get a popup screen in the app and code to show their driver. Click here to get the details on how Fast Match works.

Head to the top level to check a bag.

The main terminal is split into three levels. The top-most level (Level 3) is where you check bags and get a boarding pass. If you get turned around or mistakenly dropped off in the arrivals area (Level 1), walk toward the three-story image of a live oak tree at the center of the building and take the escalator or elevator up to Level 3 (security checkpoint and concourse access is located on Level 2).

The following map gives a broad overview of the facility’s layout. I’d recommend giving this facility overview a closer look before your first visit.

A map shows the layout of New Orleans’ new airport terminal. (Courtesy of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport)

Prepare for a long TSA line.

The new airport has a single consolidated security checkpoint, which means all travelers will get in the same line to go through TSA screening and access the concourse gates. Don’t freak out if you encounter a long, winding security line on your first visit. Do give yourself at least 30 minutes to get through security.

A view of the security checkpoint at New Orleans’ new airport terminal, which opens Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Larino)

Airport officials say the 15-lane checkpoint will enable TSA to be more efficient, which should translate to a shorter wait. Still, I’d prepare for delays as workers get used to new surroundings and equipment. When I was there nearly all of the TSA screening equipment had yet to be installed. It’s possible a few lanes will remain closed for final installation work immediately following the opening.

Leave some room for food.

Folse Market, a collaboration with chef John Folse, is one of the locally-inspired food options at New Orleans’ new airport terminal. (Photo by Jennifer Larino)

Arriving earlier than usual will give you time to check out the new terminal’s food options, which include local names like Emeril’s Table, MoPho, Mondo, Cure and Cafe du Monde as well as national chains like Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A. One of the benefits of the single checkpoint is that travelers will be able to walk freely among the new terminal’s three concourses, giving you access to all the food and beverage options.

I noticed MoPho and a few other local brands have quick to-go options behind or to the sides of their concession stands, which could be helpful in a pinch. And don’t forget to peep the colorful mural honoring legendary chef Leah Chase inside Leah’s Kitchen, located to your left as you exit the TSA checkpoint.

Leah’s Kitchen, one of the restaurants at New Orleans’ new airport terminal, includes a colorful portrait of its namesake, legendary chef Leah Chase, as well as a whimsical light fixtures made out of pots and pans. (Photo by Jennifer Larino)

Bring a water bottle.

Mark a win in the hydration column. The airport water fountains will finally include built-in water bottle filling stations. No more awkward hovering over a water fountain spout of questionable cleanliness to fill your Nalgene. Other helpful features include electrical outlets built into roughly half of the gate seats, family restrooms for parents traveling with kids, and a post-security pet relief area located behind Shake Shack and Panda Express.

A music stage and three-story image of a live oak tree are among the features in the arrivals area on the first level of New Orleans’ new airport terminal, which opens Nov. 6, 2019. (Photo by Jennifer Larino)
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
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1 Terminal Dr, Kenner, LA 70062, USA
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