Flights to New Orleans transport you to a different world. This vivacious, colourful, and eternally-intrepid city is a unique mix of European influences and good old Southern charm, and even after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans has bounced back with even more energy than it had before. The locals here have a deep-rooted sense community and hospitality, and the only time you may feel like an outsider is right before your flight lands in New Orleans.
Music is the soul of the city and seeps through every aspect of New Orleans. There are bars and clubs playing host to live music acts on practically every downtown street, and while this may be Jazz music's natural habitat, you can also sway to the tunes of rhythm and blues, country music, rock, and a capella groups. For something a little more lively, put on your dancing shoes and head down to the local nightclubs where the city's immigrant population has introduced New Orleans to salsa, bachata, samba, and more. Mardi Gras is when the city is at its bright and shiny best, attracting visitors from around the world who book flights months in advance to come and enjoy the street festivities, colourfully outrageous costumes, and great local food.
The city's amazing cuisine is another major draw for visitors, incorporating influences from the region's French colonial rulers, as well as its African and Caribbean settlers. The New Orleans Seafood Festival is a good time to sample local fare on the cheap. With Po-boys, Etoufee, King Cakes, and lots more to choose from, you may just be a few pounds heavier on your flight home.
Named for the city's most famous musician, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is the region's main airport. It is served primarily by domestic airlines like Delta Airlines, American, Continental, United, JetBlue, Southwest, and US. Visitors from Canada can book with Air Canada for direct flights to New Orleans from Toronto.
The airport is located about 22 km away from downtown New Orleans and a trip to the city's Central Business District takes less than half an hour.
New Orleans is an extremely popular vacation destination and tourists include gourmet travellers searching for the best of New Orleans' cuisine and Mardi Gras revellers queuing up for the biggest party in the South.
Summer is the off-peak tourist season, owing to the high temperature and humidity levels. Cheap flights to New Orleans are easier to find at this time, but if you're not used to hot weather, it's best to avoid a summer holiday here. Mid-January to May is when New Orleans flights are snapped up quickly by those attending Mardi Gras in February and the Jazz Festival in April. If you're looking to skip the crowds and still avoid the heat, book your trip from October to early January when flights are cheaper and the weather pleasantly cool.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) has a large central terminal flanked by four concourses. Most ground transportation options can be found near the exits of the lower level baggage claim area, with the exception of the Express Bus, which departs from the upper level. Check the airport's website for more information on any of the travel options listed below.
Public Transit: The Airport-Downtown Express Bus (E-2) is the cheapest way to travel from the airport to the city. A one-way fare costs approximately $2 USD and the trip takes about half an hour. The bus stop is located near Entrance Number 7 on the upper level.
Airport Shuttle: The airport-run shuttle service charges a flat fare of about $20 USD for one-way tickets in shared-ride shuttles from the airport to New Orleans' Central Business District. You can get a discount of up to $2 for booking round trip tickets. Each passenger is allowed up to three medium-sized bags and booking in advance via email or telephone is recommended. If you've forgotten to do this, you can buy tickets from the booths located at the airport's lower level baggage claim area.
Northshore Airport Express provides shuttle services from the airport to the North Shore area while Tiger Shuttle Vans run between the airport and Baton Rouge. Both companies operate private and shared-ride shuttles services and advance bookings are required. Prices vary depending on whether you choose a private or shared-ride vehicle as well as your final destination.
Hotel Shuttle: From your New Orleans flights to the city centre, a hotel shuttle is the easiest way to travel. Check with your hotel if this complimentary service is offered, or you can ask them to arrange a pick-up car from the airport and have the charges added to your final bill.
Taxi: Taking a cab into the city's Central Business District will cost you about $33-35 USD for up to two passengers. The fare goes up by $14 USD for each additional passenger up to five passengers per vehicle. You may also be charged an extra fee for additional luggage or over-sized bags so make sure you confirm this with your driver before starting off on your journey. The cab stands are located on the lower level of the airport outside the baggage claim areas.
Car Rental: Nine companies offer rental car services from the airport including Advantage, Avis, and Hertz. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during the busy Mardi Gras period. But if you're travelling in the summer or around Christmas, you can simply walk up to the company kiosks and book a car on arrival.
Other: Passengers travelling to the Amtrak station or Greyhound bus stop will have to use taxis or connections via the bus network to get to their destinations. Alternatively, you could choose to enter New Orleans in style and book a limousine service which includes a meet-and-greet at the arrivals gate, assistance with your baggage, and a very comfortable ride into town. Rates are not cheap, starting at about $60 USD for up to two passengers, and you can find booking counters at the baggage claim areas.