Business leaders work to make NOLA to London flights a reality

It is impossible right now to hop on an airline at Louis Armstrong International Airport that will fly directly to London. Recently, some local business leaders traveled to Europe in hopes of changing that. They are working to land a deal that will make almost daily flights to Europe a reality.

“We’re working an array of carriers,” said Gregory Rusovich, CEO of Transoceanic Trading and Development Company, who sits on the board of GNO Inc., and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Business Council of New Orleans.

Rusovich was part of a local contingent that recently traveled to London to talk with major airlines about international flights between New Orleans and Europe.

“There’s an engagement of real interest,” he said in discussing the talks.

The goal is to have at least three direct flights from New Orleans to London and vice-versa a week.

“There should absolutely be no excuse to have to travel to Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta to go to Europe and the UK. We’re prime time now in New Orleans, we’ve got the hot hand, we need an international flight,” stated Rusovich.

Such flights, he and others said, would be very attractive to wealthy and influential Europeans.

“Every city in America is competing for tourist dollars, and after that high end tourism, and people who are traveling from Europe to New Orleans would be an ideal mix of tourist to come to New Orleans,” said Robert Watters, Vice President of the French Quarter Business Association.

The New Orleans Chamber of Commerce is among dozens of local organizations supporting the idea of having regular international flights taking off and landing at Armstrong Airport. Business leaders said the lack of such flights is a hindrance to attracting new businesses with roots across the sea.

“This will allow businesses to be flying in direct, it’ll put us further on the map to prime time and it’ll build a whole global narrative,” stated Rusovich.

Rusovich concedes that economic incentives may be needed to seal any deal with the airlines that are part of the discussions, and that could necessitate approval from the Louisiana legislature.

“At some point we’ll likely need legislative and gubernatorial support. Now one very important part here, this is not just New Orleans, this is the entire state, imagine the oil and gas regions that need those international flights.”

Rusovich would not say which airlines they are talking to, but it is likely that major carriers like British Airways and Air France would be targeted for such discussions.

Watters said if incentives are needed, the state should view it as an opportunity with broad benefits.

“I think that you’d look at the multiplier effect, whenever you have somebody coming here from Europe there is a multiplier in terms of the economic impact,” stated Watters.

“We really need this. This is a game-changing potential for us,” said Rusovich.

He said with so many cruises departing from New Orleans, having European flights land in the city would also benefit the cruise ship industry as numerous ships depart from the city.

Rusovich said he hopes a deal can be reached with a major airline that flies to Europe before a year is up.

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