September 11, 2005

N.O. airport demand recovery make take years

BATON ROUGE (Reuters) - It could be as little as a year or
as long as five years before New Orleans' main airport
experience the kind of demand it had before Hurricane Katrina
struck the region last week, the airport's aviation director
said on Sunday.

"We're going to get back to 174 daily departures, maybe in
12 months, maybe in 36 months, maybe 60 months -- it's too
early to say," Roy Williams told Reuters. Louis Armstrong New
Orleans International Airport handles 80 percent of the state's
commercial and cargo air traffic.

The airport is set to reopen to commercial traffic on

Williams told reporters in a daily briefing that Delta Air
Lines, Northwest Airlines Corp. and Continental Airlines all
want to return to the airport as soon as possible.

Williams also said Southwest Airlines "will definitely be
back in force." Southwest is the largest carrier operating at
the airport.

But the airport's two international carriers, Air Canada
and Grupo Taca, may take longer to return, he said, because of
some of the other emergency operations that are utilizing the
international facilities at the airport.

Some traffic will be better than none for the airport. The
facility runs entirely on user fees and does not get any local
tax revenue, so it has been losing $200,000 a day since the
storm hit August 29.

Williams said officials were already talking with the
Federal Aviation Administration about how it might help.

"They have already contacted us about how they can help
with the impact of this situation," he said.