NEW ORLEANS – For the first time in thirty years, the Crescent City has a new, non-stop, direct flight to Europe.
British Airways (BA) began its four-day-a-week service Monday between New Orleans and London.
Nicolas Krohne, British Airways Vice President of sales for North America, has high hopes for the new flights.
"We are very, very excited," Krohne said. "New Orleans is a natural fit for British Airways. It's a thriving economic city with a lot of growth. Likewise, Europeans are very excited to come visit New Orleans as well."
It took local business and civic leaders several years and multiple trips to England to convince British Airways to take another look at New Orleans.
The airline ended its regular flights to the Big Easy in the early 1980s. Michael Hecht, GNO Inc. CEO, was part of the delegation that landed BA. He calls the direct access to Europe a game changer for both business and leisure travelers.
"This is something that's going to change the way that we do business in New Orleans, change the way that we do conventions, change the hospitality industry," Hecht said. "We talk about GNO global, this actually makes us global once again."
Hecht also maintains the British Airways flights are on a use it or lose it basis.
"Now that we've actually caught the plane so to speak, now we've got to fly in it," Hecht said. "We want to take this current route which is four days a week, we want to use it so much that they give us additional days."
According to the New Orleans Advocate, that's already happened. Shortly after the first flight touched down Monday, The Advocate reported flights had been expanded from four to five days a week.
Business owner and Louisiana Board of International Commerce Chairman Greg Rusovich is among the local leaders flying to London on the first British Airways flight.
"I've traveled the world in my business for four decades now," Rusocich said. "Every time it's always been connecting somewhere. Those connections are really hard."
Rusovich added flying non-stop is the way to go.
"To be on a flight from New Orleans is just terrific, to go right into a European center of commerce, British center of commerce and to be able to travel there, the Middle East, Africa, it's just terrific.
Krohne said so far advanced bookings for the New Orleans flight are very promising. As of March 27, you can buy a round-trip ticket to London for $899.
"At the moment, the current performance is very strong from both sides of the pond," Krohne said.
Armstrong International will also soon have a non-stop flight to Germany.
In May, Condor Airlines begins its seasonal service between New Orleans and Frankfurt.