After a two-week delay, officials at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport finally announced this morning what many had long suspected: British Airways will begin serving the Louisiana city in March of 2017 non stop from London Heathrow.
This represents a massive coup for New Orleans, as the city had long sought to gain a flagship international carrier. Leisure airline Condor of Germany stated its intention to start seasonal service between New Orleans and Frankfurt, which certainly proved that New Orleans is thought of as a veritable destination. However, securing British Airways service – which the city began pitching as far back as 2012 – is an even more momentous accomplishment, as the U.K.’s flag carrier is known for being exceptionally stingy about starting new service to markets that are not served from London.
The choice of three-class Boeing 787-800 Dreamliners as the aircraft to operate the route certainly makes sense. At 214 seats, the plane is smaller than other widebodies like the carrier’s 777 and 747 aircraft, but possesses the necessary range to make the 4,000+ mile journey. Moreover, unlike its big brother (the 787-900), the 787-800 is a three-class aircraft, meaning it doesn’t possess a first class cabin. And while first-class service is viable on routes with significant business travel (JFK-LHR) or celebrity travel (LAX-LHR), most people traveling to New Orleans will – at least to start – be leisure travelers. As such, the economics – both in terms of aircraft performance, capacity, and the type of traveler that will be catered to – makes sense.
Even so, New Orleans officials are optimistic that the service won’t just be a tourist boon, but will help the city “diversify the city’s tourism-heavy economy,” according to an article by Richard Thompson in the New Orleans Advocate. With a new nonstop link to Europe, such a feat seems more possible than before.