Sometimes, we here at Haute Plates Industries struggle to come up with a topic worthy of you, Dear Readers. A weekly column focused on our local restaurant and dining scene would seem an easy task, but from time to time it’s difficult to write something topical and interesting.
Rarely we have weeks like this one, where a story so vibrant and absurd flops like a stunned halibut onto the deck of our literary boat that we can only marvel, soundless, at our luck. And this is one hell of a halibut, kids.
I am relying for this column in part on the outstanding reporting of my friend Ian McNulty, whose article appeared yesterday, and on the article published on WGNO’s website by Rachael O’Neill on Nov. 18. I cite these sources because when I heard about it, I thought perhaps I was being pranked.
The short version is that the New Orleans airport is going to allow people who are not traveling to obtain “guest passes” that allow the holder to visit the restaurants, bars and other amenities in the airport without traveling. You must still pass through the TSA checkpoints and pay for parking, but other than that, you’ll be treated like anyone else visiting our new airport.
In other words, you get all of the hassle of traveling, without the actual travel.
Here is a quote from the WGNO article, which I assure you I did not make up:
You may have heard about the new restaurants, art work, and live music the MSY has to offer. Well you can finally experience it for free and that’s without having to fly! In just a few weeks, the new MSY is offering a quest pass for non-passengers to go beyond the TSA checkpoint!
Soon after Thanksgiving, almost anyone will be able to see the billion dollar facility as long as they’re approved for the pass after a background check.
I neglected to mention that you must obtain the pass in advance of your visit and must also undergo a background check. Then you can patronize the restaurants, bars and retail establishments that for the most part are outlets of restaurants, bars and retail establishments you could already visit in New Orleans were you so inclined.
The WGNO article also includes this delightful quote from a traveler whose name I am going to redact for reasons that will be obvious when you read the quote:
“I think it’s gonna bring a lot of revenue. I mean, just to come to the airport,” Another traveler, [NAME REDACTED] told us. “Say, you just wanna come out for just a night out and don’t wanna go clubbing or anything like that – this will be really fun!”
I would like thank Rachael O’Neill again for her reporting and specifically for that quote. I would also like to suggest that your options, should you decide not to go “clubbing or anything like that,” include many things that do not involve driving to the airport and undergoing a TSA screening.
I admit that it has been many years since I have been “clubbing” or anything like “clubbing,” so perhaps TSA-style screenings are a thing at clubs now, but I am fairly certain that the people you meet at clubs, or indeed any other venue outside of an airport, are not primarily composed of people with layovers of an hour or more between flights into and out of New Orleans. If that’s the demographic you want to encounter, then the Guest Pass may be right up your alley. If you are reading this, and you are, because you are reading this right now, I hope you do not fit that description.
And of course, your enjoyment of the amenities must be completed fairly early as these things are judged in New Orleans. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. McNulty’s piece that explains:
MSY Guest Pass will function with a set of limits and rules meant to maintain travel safety. Access will be available from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a limit of 50 visitors per day on weekdays and 100 visitors per day on weekends. Visitors are limited to using the program once per month.
I am not going to have a problem with that once a month limitation.
I am fully on board with the plethora of new dining, drink and retail options at the renovated airport, but the idea of actually going to the airport to hang out and enjoy the ambiance is ludicrous and would be even without the other complications. Though I want the record to reflect that I love the TSA and all of the agents who work for the TSA, and have always enjoyed the process of removing my shoes, belt and emptying the contents of my pockets to stand in an MRI machine while strangers (who are all wonderful people and Great Americans) paw through my carry-on luggage.
I do understand that the guest pass would allow friends and family of someone traveling to accompany the traveler to the airport and spend a bit more time before a journey than would otherwise be possible. Perhaps there are a lot of people who actually arrive at the airport four hours before their flight is scheduled to depart for whom that extra time is meaningful. I tend to arrive at the airport with just enough time to line up for boarding, and I suspect I’m in the majority.
But hey, feel free to disagree with me in the comments. Let me know why you think getting a guest pass to the airport is a good idea and on the off chance you’ve actually done it and can use a computer, let me know how it went?
In sum, I love the TSA.