Impressions Of The New Louis Armstrong New Orleans Terminal

Filed Under: Airport Lounge Reviews, Travel

It’s not every day that you get to fly out of a brand-new terminal on its first day open, but that is precisely what I, and thousands of other passengers, experienced in New Orleans on Wednesday, November 6th.

Due to a stroke of luck (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) and a conveniently-timed client, I had the privilege of being one of the first to experience the new terminal earlier this week.

Getting To The New MSY Terminal

The long-awaited new terminal still uses MSY’s (the airport code’s) existing runways, in a new building north of its predecessor. Sadly, the surrounding infrastructure hasn’t quite caught up with the inside of the terminal, and the main thoroughfare in is a little bit circuitous. Road construction isn’t set to be complete until 2023, so we have that to look forward to.

Factor in the overnight move, the concerns around drivers knowing where to go, and my must-attend meeting in New York City the next day, and I was more than a little nervous the night before.

Fortunately, my concerns were completely unfounded. All of the Uber and Lyft drivers who I talked to knew exactly what was going on, and the Lyft app navigated us there without a hitch, despite showing the old address. The ride from the Hyatt Regency New Orleans took about 25 minutes, and before I knew it, we were pulling up to the shiny new terminal.

MSY drop-off area

Inside The Terminal

The check-in area is located on the third floor, with security and departure gates located one level below, and baggage claim located on the bottom floor. As I walked in, the whole terminal felt incredibly open and airy, and much more akin to a modern airport in Europe or Asia.

MSY departures

The open mezzanines made the space feel huge, without having to walk a mile. I’ve heard of some people complaining about it feeling too sterile, but I absolutely loved it, in a next-generation Apple Store sort of way.

While I didn’t have a bag to check, I snapped a quick photo of the check-in area. All airlines operate from the same terminal, with the check-in desks in one location. Of course, this has its perks and its pitfalls.

Perhaps the biggest challenge with a terminal being consolidated like this is the potential for long security lines. Fortunately, I was through security in about three minutes, thanks to Pre-Check and CLEAR, which were running smoothly.

Everything on the security front felt pretty ordinary, and certainly not like they were in their first hours of operation. None of my colleagues ran into any trouble when they were traveling later that morning, either.

In fact, the biggest indication that we were at a new airport terminal was the abundance of camera crews, which was admittedly pretty cool.

Once past security, I headed toward the C concourse, which is currently occupied by United, Delta, and Spirit. I couldn’t help but notice that security is still partially under construction, too.

And if they get more lanes open, it won’t be a bad thing.

Post-Security

After turning left toward the C concourse, I made my way down the hallway, which maintained the same open and airy feel as the rest of the terminal.

The concourse itself covers the basics exceptionally well, with plenty of seating and charging stations – two of my favorite things.

MSY seating

The concourse itself has gates operating on either side, with plenty of eating establishments in the middle. I’d had a little too much Frenchman Street the night before to be excited about breakfast, but I did grab a couple of terminal shots before settling in and prepping for my day.

MSY Concourse C
MSY Concourse C
MSY Concourse C

The floor-to-ceiling windows offered great views of the tarmac (although less great livery, if you care about that sort of thing).

MSY views

Shortly before leaving, I checked out one of the nearby restrooms, which elicited no shortage of oohs and aahs from fellow travelers.

MSY restroom

MSY restroom

Time flew by in the comfortable new terminal, and I even forgot for a while that I was at a place of business that had opened only hours earlier. In fact, the only real sign of any kinks being worked out were a series of overly loud boarding announcements, which were followed a few minutes later by an announcement reminding everyone to double-check their zone before making announcements. It wasn’t too disruptive, but I also wasn’t sad when things quieted down.

Before I knew it, I was on board my 737-700, which felt extra dated that morning. We taxied out for our on-time departure, but not before grabbing one last shot of the neighboring A/B concourse.

The New MSY Delta Sky Club

Right now, the Delta Sky Club is the only lounge operating out of the new terminal, and sadly, my reservation on United’s Friendly Skies meant that I didn’t have access this time around. Luckily, my husband and part-time trip report photographer was flying out later that morning, so I sent him in for, um, reconnaissance.

The festive atmosphere began before you even walked in the door, with plenty of press covering the opening.

MSY Sky Club Entrance

MSY SkyClub opening day

And it was pretty clear that Delta took pride in the day’s festivities, with everything from schwag:

Sky Club gifts

To a local artist who was signing prints of one of his paintings that hangs in the Sky Club:

That said, when I asked my husband what he thought of, his initial response was, “Nice, but smaller than I thought it would be.”

MSY Sky Club check-in
MSY Sky Club check-in


MSY Sky Club bar


MSY Sky Club seating

His tune (and my photo reel) quickly changed, however, when they broke out the champagne, shrimp and oysters.

Sky Club champagne


Sky Club oysters

This food display prompted a series of “Best Sky Club ever!!” texts, from someone who generally doesn’t really care about airport lounges.

I should probably mention here that this was opening day, and the seafood was clearly served from a popup cart, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect crustaceans on your next visit. But it is nice to see a lounge staff put so much care into their opening day festivities, and genuinely take pride in their product.

Overall Impressions

As someone who is used to East Coast airports, this was a refreshing change and a beautiful space. Sure, there was some congestion with security, and the drive-in isn’t ideal, but those issues will be fixed with time. In fact, if it weren’t for the camera crews and a few wayward overhead announcements, you wouldn’t have known that the space had only been open for mere hours.

But the most fun part of all was watching everyone’s reactions. People were oohing and aahing at everything from the airy new concourses to the restrooms, and for good reason. Let’s face it – flying isn’t usually that fun for the average traveler, and airports can be a pretty stressful place to hang out. So it was really nice to replace the typical TSA complaints with people gasping because the bathroom doors are tall. 

So, while I’m sure some of the initial buzz will wear off, and a new airport terminal in New Orleans won’t bring major changes to my life, it was an absolute privilege to witness the festivities firsthand that morning.

Oh, and I made my meeting with time to spare. 🙂

Have you flown in or out of the new MSY yet? What do you think of the new terminal? 

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Comments
  1. It’s a nice, new terminal for sure, but I feel like those thick columns detract from the airiness. I feel like some slightly improved architecture and engineering could have gone a long way.

  2. @Steph great to see another post from you and excited to see the new MSY as we fly to NOLA once or twice each year. The old SkyClub was well…old; however the staff has always been great and the sausage and grits on the morning buffet are unique to this location. Excited to try it out on our next trip as the space now matches the generous hospitality.

    Glad to see Delta upgrading and expanding their domestic club network here, AUS, HNL (really nicely renovated older club) etc. rather than neglecting them while adding a small handful of restricted access premium clubs like AA and UA have done post—GFC. I get far more use out of these on my weekly business trips than on my quarterly (best case) vacations.

  3. @Garrett – I wonder how much of the structural engineering has to do with the concern about a bomb blast given the “hardening” required of these public buildings.

  4. Hey — thanks for the review of the new MSY. MSY is my hometown airport and we have been waiting for the new airport to open (it’s been delayed a couple of times). I just flew out of the airport yesterday, so two days after they opened and on a Friday night. Getting to the airport was easy, and as you said despite the consolidated security, with TSA Precheck I was through in less than 5 minutes (all security lanes were open). Overall it’s a nice airport with huge windows, even in the bathroom. The only issue that I have is the distance – my flight was at the end of C and it was quite a distance to walk – and there are no moveable walkways so people with mobility issues or senior citizens would have some difficulty. Also, the gates were on either side and in the middle were the stores which meant the amount of space to walk was restricted. Minor things but overall it’s a nice airport

  5. I presume schwag means swag, although I couldn’t find the former in Merriam Webster. Is it slang for swag? (I though swag for informal anyway.)

  6. I flew in for Xavier’s Homecoming on Wednesday night. For a city full of culture and vibrance the all white is very sterile. A few pieces of art, sculptures or even a small “museum” celebrating the culture would break it up a bit. Was glad to see all the local New Orleans restaurants vs chain places. My classmate had no issues with her luggage. However waiting on Lyft was a struggle. The number system wasn’t working and standing in line felt like I was at a normal taxi station but the workers nicer and more helpful. Outside of that I wouldn’t have known it had opened earlier that day.

  7. The cold, soulless minimalism of the terminal seems rather out of place in NOLA. Then again, it is an airport, so I guess I should applaud them for making it functional and keeping costs down.

  8. It’s amazing how you glossed over the incomplete construction on both the security area(6th picture) and the unfinished led displays with wires hanging out(7th picture), and somehow missed the travesty of navigating security screening which was wrapped outside the building on the first day

  9. I flew out last night from C3 where it seemed staff was struggling with the jetway and ground support. An Air Canada regional jet sat for an hour after boarding before finally getting pushed back, allowing the equipment for my Alaska flight to pull in. Where it sat for 20 min before the jetway started creeping forward by fits and starts. We boarded 40 min late.
    Had a tasty blue crab & beet salad at the Leah Chase – which has a single register so it too a long time to get the check processed.
    And, at the Alaska checkin desk, they didn’t have any scanners so had to type in passenger names.
    It’s getting there and nothing was that bad, just the multiple minor annoyances of most new things. I’d flown into the old terminal that Saturday, so appreciated the contrast.
    I was sorely tempted to snap a shot of the jetway carpet’s original color, for comparison when I’m back in a few months 😀

  10. Our flight was delayed about a half hour because the baggage system broke on the first day and they had to retrieve a few bags by hand. Also the bus over from the rental car return took nearly a half hour despite being directly across the tarmac from the new airport.

    Those items aside, I think it’s a major improvement. Just leave time for the lengthy rental shuttle ride.

  11. This is a pork barrelled waste of money. The old terminal was better located and worked fine. The new terminal may visually look better but it’s just corruption of public officials wasting money.

    It’s not like MSY was too busy and needed an additional 30 or 40 gates.

  12. A big lobby may look nice but if you are elderly, that’s just longer distance to walk and harder to go about. That is why I don’t fault LGA too much.

    If you flew WN at MSY, the entrance to the terminal is close to the check in kiosk and not far from the gates. Same with other airlines.

  13. What about getting there with public transportation?
    You should mention public transportation when you review an airport terminal.

  14. @tiffany, I was in the DL skyclub in August on a Friday and the oysters and shrimp were out. They said they do that every Friday. The champagne, however, is not a regular thing. I find skyclub staff generally friendly, but the ones at MSY were exceptionally friendly.

    @derek, it’s not public corruption to build a new airport. You can disagree with the choice an even feel it is a waste of money. But don’t insult the public servants by saying it’s corruption. Besides, Louisiana is one of the most corrupt places in the country. There is actually REAL corruption to go after there. Don’t confuse the two.

  15. I was among one of the last to fly out of the old terminal…left Tuesday late afternoon. Had I knew the opening of the new terminal when I booked months ago, I would come home a day later.

  16. Really hoping for a non-airline-specific lounge which is Priority Pass or AmEx Platinum such as Escape. As much as it would make sense with everything being in one terminal so everyone would have access, I do not see a Centurion Lounge ever happening here. It’s my home town (even though I now call South Florida home).

    Still, I can’t wait to fly into the new terminal. Not often we get a world class facility that is outside of Europe.

  17. @malc @Christopher

    schwag
    /ˈʃwaɡ/
    noun informal•US
    noun: schwag

    1. products given away free, typically for promotional purposes.

    2. cannabis, typically of a low grade.

  18. My experience with this Airport is completely different. For a new terminal with all the current knowledge of what works and does not this is an extremely poorly layed out and executed design. There are no where near enough gate chairs per flight. There is no where near enough sq ft dedicated to gates. The walkways are unnecessary narrow. Lines for restaurants, stores and gates block all of them. The spread of the gates in use is wierdly clustered together instead of distributed. The tall glass window system wind supports take way to much real estate in the walkways. The rest room layout of sinks vs urinals and stalls is odd. The sinks are luxuriously spralling and the rest is crammed. The information systems and counter tills all seem like an afterthought, they are slow, wires not managed, none are integrated into walls etc to save space. The queue for TSA precheck was a mile long and compromised by Clear a pay service to cut the unnecessary line to have my already background checked card looked at by a guy with a machine. The priority for square footage seems to have gone to shops and restaurants. Not the gates and everything suffers as a consequences. Don’t get me wrong though, it sure looks nice and new and contemporary design.

  19. @chadmc – Airport officials say a Priority Pass lounge will be coming in early 2020.

    I was there last week. It’s truly a beautiful space and seems efficient, except for the cab/Uber/Lyft lines, which will have to be worked out and quickly. And it is big — much bigger than the old airport — big enough where moving walkways would have been a good addition.

    On the positive side: just about everything else. There’s a jazz stage with live music near baggage claim, which is a great touch. The old MSY had perhaps the worst excuse for a restaurant system in the U.S., while this has well-executed branches of Emeril’s, Dooky Chase, Cafe Du Monde and many other local restaurants. That even extends to the bars, which aren’t generic but are branded versions of The Sazerac Bar, Cure and other local places.

    Given the many delays in construction, I was pleasantly surprised to see it up and operating so well during its first week.

  20. They are missing airport/terminal maps or kiosks.

    Also, there is a huge lack of trash cans. Such a funny thing to overlook.

    I also wish the new “The Club” lounge would have been one .

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