New Orleans plans new 30-gate terminal

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New Orleans International airport plans to build a new 30-gate terminal to replace its aging existing facility, as traffic inches upward.

The new $826 million, 59,499m2 (640,440ft2) terminal will be located on the north side of the airfield - the current terminal is on the south side - and accommodate all scheduled airline operations when it opens in 2018, according to the airport. The facility will have 60 ticket counter positions and 13 overnight aircraft parking spots on the ramp. Future plans call for up to 48 gates.

Diagram of planned new terminal

New Orleans Aviation Board

"Creating a new, modern airport is integral to our success as a world-class travel destination and hub for commerce," says New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, at the announcement on 17 April.

Construction is slated to begin in 2014, pending environmental approval.

New Orleans says that the new terminal will increase efficiency and lower costs per passenger by shrinking the floor area from the existing 111,484m2 facility. It uses the example of a consolidated security checkpoint in the new terminal compared to the four separate checkpoints in the current building.

The airport's existing terminal has sections that are more than 50 years old.

"The airport that we have today has served us well, but it is not the airport of the future," says Douglas Thornton, vice-chairman of the New Orleans Aviation Board, in a statement. "The evaluation of various airport expansion or relocation options has been studied by many groups over the years, and it's now time to address the long-term needs of the region."

Recently completed renovations to the existing terminal totalling $300 million will be used until the new facility opens and then repurposed for future uses, says the airport. It anticipates that the site will be used for general aviation, fixed base operators and MRO services after the terminal is decommissioned.

New Orleans handled 8.6 million passengers in 2012, which is up 0.6% from 2011, according to airport statistics. Traffic is down 11% from its last peak of 9.7 million passengers in 2004.

Southwest Airlines was the airport's largest carrier with 33.6% of enplaned traffic in 2012, according to US Department of Transportation (DOT) data. Delta Air Lines was second with 18.6% and United Airlines third with 14.4%.

The largest shares of funding for the new terminal will include $267.3 million in general airport revenue bonds and $207.3 million in passenger facility charges, according to the airport. Other sources include US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airport improvement programme grants, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) funds, Louisiana state aviation fund grants and New Orleans Aviation Board capital funds.