SPEAKING OUT: We need our own airlines
Here is the paradox:
For New Orleans to get more airline service we need to attract more business.
To attract more business we need more airline service.
Standing in back of the room are the airlines who don’t care how we resolve our problem because there are other, more lucrative, less disaster ravaged, markets to fly from.
What this city, which desperately needs conventioneers, vacationers and business travelers for its survival, needs, is an airline that is domiciled here, whose future depends on our growth and that gives a hoot about our revival.
Louisiana has nurtured some airlines that grew to be successful. Delta airlines was started near Monroe – New Orleans has always been one of its important hubs. Our town was also the first destination outside of Texas for Southwest Airline.
Continental and American airlines, among still existing carriers, have also done a good business here.
Nostalgia and loyalty however, do not go very far in today’s cut throat aviation business. We will have to show signs of recovery without the help of the airlines, rather than for them to be part of the solution.
That is why we need a local airline, Before Katrina, a group out of Baton Rouge was actively planning a new service, to be headquartered in New Orleans, known as Direct Air. The airline would connect regional, and more distant cities, to New Orleans.
With it, our city would be better able to attract events. During the recent librarians conventions, a seminar had to be canceled because flight connections were too difficult. Many similar meetings are held elsewhere for similar reasons.
By having our own airline, the other carriers might take New Orleans less for granted and become more competitive in what is, when things are working right, a potentially lucrative market.
For Direct Air to fly here is a catch. It is asking the state for $300 million in loan guarantees. Politically, that’s a lot of turbulence for any governor to experience.
We do not necessarily endorse a loan guarantee of that size; we would hope that the amount could be lowered and that private enterprise could kick in; nor do we necessarily favor one aspiring airline over another. The advantage of Direct Air is that it has a portfolio, a plan and investors in place. We do feel strongly that getting our own airline needs to be a priority no matter what it takes. To reach for the skies, we need our own planes to get us there.