Low-cost airline looks to create Louisiana hub in New Orleans

Low-cost airline looks to create Louisiana hub in New Orleans

A plan to bring a low-cost airline to New Orleans and create a regional hub that would provide direct flights from every major city in Louisiana to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will be presented this afternoon to the Regional Planning Commission in New Orleans.

"This is the coming out ceremony," says Baton Rouge attorney Johnny Koch, who is representing M7 Capital, the investor group behind the project. "What we're hoping today is to get the ball rolling."

The plan has been in the works since the early days of Gov. Kathleen Blanco's administration, according to Koch, who says that, as currently envisioned, the project would entail an acquisition of low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, which would relocate from Denver to New Orleans and operate from there as a hub airline. The state, through LED, is apparently behind the concept, having signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the developers, agreeing to kick in $50 for every net new passenger the airline brings to New Orleans.

For Baton Rouge and other cities with airports around the state, such a deal would be a boon, Koch says, as it would provide more direct flights to New Orleans and beyond.

"The one-day business trip would become a reality," he says.

However, getting the city of New Orleans and the New Orleans Aviation Board to agree to the plan will be a challenge because of the competitive threat Frontier would pose to Southwest Airlines and other existing carriers that service New Orleans.

"New Orleans is concerned about what will happen if we have an incented airline flying out of New Orleans," says Koch. "This gets into the real nitty-gritty of the money and the financing. … But this project is so big and the potential is so huge, we are not just going to walk away from it."

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office did not return calls for comment in time for publication, nor did RPC Chairman John Young, who is also Jefferson Parish President.

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