How the Westminster was Won (or, The Story of British Airways)


“Game-changer” is the term everyone seems to be using to describe our announcement last week that British Airways will soon be commencing non-stop, direct service from New Orleans to London Heathrow. Indeed, reconnecting Louisiana to Europe for the first time since 1982 is a hugely significant. The BA flight – 4 times per week on an ultramodern 787 aircraft – will have a dramatic positive impact on tourism, conventions and business, and will go a long way towards making New Orleans once again a truly global city.

While the reaction to the announcement has been swift, the process to get there was long, and included three critical elements:

The Numbers – The basic requirement to be considered for the flight was that the airport and region have strong, and ever-improving, quantitative fundamentals. And indeed, we did:

• Over 435 passengers a day were already going from MSY to London and Western Europe (via other airports like Atlanta)
• New Orleans leads the nation in annual increase of international visitors, +37%
• Greater New Orleans has been one of the hottest economies in the south over the past decade, ranking #1 in economic development wins
• There is no airport competition for 300 miles, and over 5 million people reside within a three hour drive time from MSY

The Narrative – Beyond the numbers, we also had to tell a compelling story about a New Orleans region that had not only come back from Hurricane Katrina, but was in many ways better than ever:

• An economy that was more diversified than before, and better able to withstand the oil price downturn
• Manufacturing at record levels, with tens of billions in recent investment
• One of the fastest growing technology sectors in the country
• One of the hottest cities in America for young people and tech jobs
• A booming tourism sector, driven in part due to new cruise activity, and with world-class properties like the Four Seasons coming on-line

The Team – Perhaps most importantly, landing this British Airways flight was the result of a remarkable, 4+ year team effort, led by the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, Greater New Orleans, Inc. and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Mayor, Governor, Lt. Governor, Louisiana Economic Development and Jefferson Parish leaders also played an ongoing and indispensable role. Over 100 other business people, civic leaders and interested parties – from Lafayette to Pensacola – pitched in. Without question, this flight would not have happened but for exceptional public/private teamwork.

And it took perseverance: four years, three trips to London, and hundreds of hours of analysis, development and meetings. We didn’t get it on our first, or even second try. But we were confident that the more British Airways came to understand the numbers, the narrative and the team, the more they would come to see that New Orleans was an outstanding opportunity.

And they did. So, as of March 27, 2017, you will be able to go to sleep on a Dreamliner out of New Orleans, and wake up in London – and from there connect to over 130 other destinations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

GNO has gone global. Tickets are available today on www.ba.com.