Guest column: New Orleans professor’s article blasting new airport terminal is ‘absurd … not true’


Loyola New Orleans English professor Christopher Schaberg hates new airports. We know this because he wrote a book called “The End of Airports.”

Professor Schaberg also dislikes his adopted hometown of New Orleans, apparently. We know this because his recent piece in The Atlantic, “A World-Class Airport for the End of the World,” is full of hyperbole and half-truths, and it seems that its sole aim is to undermine one of the most important success stories of post-Katrina New Orleans, the revitalization of New Orleans International Airport (MSY).

A great airport supports a strong economy. A strong economy generates the financial and political capital to address major challenges, like weather volatility. If Professor Schaberg were truly concerned about the impact of climate change on New Orleans, he wouldn’t seek to undermine the airport.

The basic premise of Professor Schaberg’s argument is reductivist and absurd: climate change is real, so New Orleans should not build a new airport terminal. Over 50% of America lives near water, because that is where commerce happens. Does Schaberg think half of America should disinvest?

Professor’s Schaberg’s argument is not supported by the facts, either. For example, he claims MSY is the second-lowest airport in the world; a quick Google search will tell you this is not true.

Professor Schaberg’s critiques of the new terminal are random and contradictory. He calls an Emeril restaurant and a Sazerac bar “watered-down localism.” Would Schaberg prefer Sbarro?

The truth is that the revitalization of New Orleans International Airport is one of the most extraordinary successes of post-Katrina New Orleans. MSY has gone from an airport in decline to the #3 fastest growing in America. We now have direct nonstop service to Europe and the Americas for the first time since the early 1980’s. And the new terminal, with lower costs and higher revenue, will ensure that growth continues.

Professor Schaberg should remember that when he is writing for The Atlantic, he is not lecturing to a classroom. Rather, he is addressing the world, and when he indulges in false and negative narratives he does incalculable damage to the brand of New Orleans, and simultaneously disrespects the thousands of New Orleanians who have worked so hard to bring this city and region back, better than in decades.

A new MSY terminal will not stop climate change, whatever the cause. But it will give New Orleans a greater chance at the necessary economic and political strength to fight it, and to help ensure that New Orleans is here for the next 300 years. Thanks to the airport, the “imagined world of ever-increasing flights and booming economic potential” that Schaberg references… is actually real. For this reason, we should applaud its construction, and do everything possible to help our airport succeed.

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