New Orleans: 80% of pre-Katrina capacity restored

Image: Airport Jazz

New Orleans’ Mardi Gras festival ended this Tuesday. While the airport is operating with around 80% of the flights it had prior to Katrina, several airlines added services. 17,000 seats were available on Friday 1 February as revellers arrived to join the festivities.

The impact of hurricane Katrina on New Orleans and the surrounding area on 29 August 2005 has been well documented. Despite the severe devastation the city is gradually recovering and this year’s Mardi Gras festival, which ended this Tuesday, is further evidence of normality being restored to the region. The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is also back to 80% of its pre-Katrina capacity levels.

Image: New Orleans

 

Chart: New Orleans traffic 1996-2007
Source: New Orleans airport

Even prior to Katrina the airport’s traffic had stagnated at between nine and 10 million passengers for the previous six years. The impact of Katrina on the airport’s traffic, and the rate at which traffic has recovered, can clearly be seen in the graph below.

Chart: New Orleans airport seasonality 2004-07
Source: New Orleans airport

Most destinations reinstated

By the summer of 2007, traffic levels had returned to around 80% of their pre-Katrina levels and most of the 40-plus destinations served in summer 2005 were once again served, though sometimes by different carriers. Among US destinations only Oakland, San Diego (both previously served by Southwest), Pittsburgh (US Airways) and San Francisco (United) are not yet served as they were in 2005.

The leading destination is Houston, which is less than 500 kilometres away. Southwest, the leading airline at MSY, operates 11 daily flights to Houston Hobby, while Continental operates 13 daily flights to Houston Intercontinental, making 24 in all. The next busiest routes are Atlanta (14 daily flights) and Dallas (13 daily flights).

Southwest still market leader

Although Southwest has so far failed to resume flights to Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Oakland, Philadelphia and San Diego it has added Chicago Midway and still offers around 25% of all capacity at the airport.

Chart: Top 12 Airlines at New Orleans
Source: New Orleans airport

The big-6 legacy carriers fill positions two to seven with Continental and American leading the way. The other major LCCs, JetBlue (to New York JFK) and AirTran (serving Atlanta and Indianapolis) have around 7% of the market.

Passenger profile has changed

A survey of the airport’s passengers conducted in 2003 and 2006 showed that since Katrina the airport has fewer out-of-state visitors (57% in 2006, 70% in 2003) and that passengers are now older (70% over 35 versus 54% before). The proportion of business travellers has increased, while those arriving for a conference or convention have fallen.


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