NEW ORLEANS — A new era of air travel in New Orleans has officially taken flight in Kenner.
The long-awaited, often delayed, opening of the new $1.3 billion airport terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport finally happened. The first arrivals into the new building landed just after 8 p.m. Tuesday, but the official opening coincided with the first departure flight to Atlanta after 5 a.m. Wednesday.
The words "beautiful," "spectacular" and "state-of-the-art" were just some of the words used to describe the new airport. Officials say travelers can expect a whole new experience flying in and out of New Orleans.
The 927,000 square-foot facility features music venues, three rooms for mothers to bring small children and other amenities such as charging locations for electronic devices at 50% of the seats at the gates. There are also 8,000 available parking spaces.
The new building has 35 gates, along with three concourses, 40 food/beverages/retail locations and other amenities including a New Orleans themed Delta Sky Club. All 16 airlines that service New Orleans are expected to use the new terminal.
A number of New Orleans restaurants are featured at the new terminal, and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said local musicians will perform daily at the airport.
“We have a world-class airport. You know, we have a world-class city. Even more important, it is what she deserves,” Cantrell said.
State and city officials cut the ribbon Tuesday, and the second line to celebrate was second to none.
"This is an exciting day. It's not every day you get a billion-dollar investment where you can actually get to go out and cut a ribbon and do the grand opening," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said.
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The terminal was initially scheduled to be completed by May 2018 but missed four different opening dates. The most recent delay happened in the spring when the grand opening had to be pushed back after crews discovered that drainage pipes under the terminal had cracked.
New Orleans Aviation Board President Michael Bagneris told reporters Tuesday that the problems that needed to be fixed were fixed.
“I have just one message for them: All of the bathrooms work,” Bagneris said.
Construction of the new terminal started eight years ago, during former mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.
“It's just gorgeous. It's one of the biggest projects the country's seen in a while. New Orleans is leading the way as we always can. This is what it looks like when we work together,” Landrieu said.
As was said several times Tuesday, Armstrong international is where travelers’ first and last impressions of New Orleans are made.
“Now their memory will be of a world-class airport for a world-class travel destination, really for a world-class people and a world-class city,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D- La).
Still, the big unknown is how long it will take to get to and from the new north terminal.
Drivers will have to exit off I-10 at Loyola Drive to get there until a new flyover ramp opens about three years from now. It's best if you arrive early, take your time and, when you get here, enjoy the new amenities along the concourses.
The old airport was built in 1959. Construction on the new terminal began in January 2016.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.