Although New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport offers direct, nonstop service to a handful of foreign destinations, including several Caribbean cities and Toronto, most international airlines have bypassed the Crescent City in favor of larger regional hubs like Houston and Atlanta. For nearly three decades there were zero direct transatlantic flights that departed from New Orleans.
In the late 1970's, Miami-based National Airlines operated the first nonstop flight from New Orleans to Europe. National was acquired by Pan Am in 1980, and there was not enough consumer demand in subsequent years to entice another airline to fill the void.
In 2015, Copa Airlines began nonstop service between New Orleans and Copa’s hub at Tocumen International Airport in Panama, which gave local travelers access to dozens of destinations in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Since 2011, Air Canada has been offering a direct flight from New Orleans to Toronto.
For years, local business leaders have sought to lure a large international carrier to provide service to a premier European destination like London or Paris to help diversify New Orleans’ tourism-heavy economy. In 2016, British Airways announced it will launch nonstop flights between London and New Orleans, marking the city's first direct connection with Europe since 1982. Flights are set to being on March 27.
The 10-hour flights will depart London on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 3:40 p.m. local time and arrive at 7:40 p.m. New Orleans time. Returning flights will leave New Orleans at 9:10 p.m. and arrive in London the next day at noon.
Passengers will travel on a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, which holds 214 passengers: 154 in economy class, 25 in premium economy and 35 in business. The London flight is the culmination of several years of talks between British Airways and local business and tourism leaders.
In 2016, Condor Airlines also announced nonstop flights between Germany and New Orleans. Condor Airlines will provide seasonal service to Frankfurt twice a week from May through September. Flights will depart New Orleans on Wednesday and Sunday evenings and arrive the next day in Germany. The airline will provide service with Boeing 767-300ER jets, which can seat 259 passengers -- 206 in economy class and 53 in upgraded sections.
The first flight from Frankfurt to New Orleans is scheduled for May 17, and the season's last flight will depart on Sept. 27. It will depart at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday and arrive in New Orleans same day at 4:45 p.m. Sunday flights will leave Frankfurt at 5:30 p.m. and land in New Orleans at 9:35 p.m.
Wednesday flights will leave New Orleans at 6:30 p.m. and arrive in Frankfurt at 11:15 a.m. Thursday. Sunday flights depart from Armstrong Airport at 11:20 p.m. and get to Germany at 4:05 p.m. Monday. A fare search on Condor's website for the inaugural flight from New Orleans showed a round-trip economy class ticket with a May 24 return date cost $850.
The new international flights come as New Orleans seeks to push its total annual visitor count over the pre-Katrina peak of 10.1 million. Tourism officials consider international visitors, who generally book longer stays and spend more, a key demographic in fueling local tourism growth. The United Kingdom is the second-largest market for foreign visitors to New Orleans, behind Canada, according to the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.