How to visit the New Orleans airport terminal without a ticket

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Just a month after a its overnight operations switch from the worn, old terminal to a swanky new on, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) joins the list of airports that welcomes non-ticketed visitors airside.

The free MSY Guest Pass program kicking off today allows non-flying guests to enjoy the new shopping and dining offerings at the airport and to listen to live music performances at special stages inside the terminal.

More importantly perhaps, this means that pass-holders are also now able to spend mo tre time with friends and family leaving for trips or to be waiting there at the gate to welcome someone home.

Here’s how the MSY Guest Pass program works.

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To get a pass, visitors need to sign up online at least 24 hours in advance and provide their full name as it appears on their government-issued photo ID as well as their date of birth and contact information. On the day of their visit, pass-seekers first visit a customer service desk to have their ID reviewed and their pass issued. Then, each passholder lines up and goes through security checkpoint screening along with ticketed passengers.

MSY isn’t the first airport to invite non-ticketed guests past security in the terminal.

Both Tampa International Airport (TPA) and Pittsburgh International Airport (PIT) operate year-round gate pass programs. And through January 5, Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is running a gate pass test. Word has it that other airports are considering gate pass programs as well.

PIT’s MyPITPass program is available Monday to Friday. TPA’s All Access pass is offered for Saturday visits. During the pilot program, DTW’s Destination Pass operates Tuesday through Sunday.

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Right out of the gate, though, MSY’s Guest Pass program leaps ahead of these other programs by being available seven days a week, although each participant may only get one pass a month.  MSY plans to issue passes to 50 visitors each weekday and to 100 visitors on Saturdays and Sundays.

Although getting to and from MSY airport from the city takes at least a half hour, there are plenty of reasons to spend time at the new Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

The light-filled, $1.029 billion terminal complex has 35 gates, pre and post-security stages for live music, three rooms for nursing mothers and an art-filled Delta Sky Club. There are also plenty of locally themed shops and restaurants, including Emeril’s Table, Dook’s, Bar Sazerac, Lucky Dogs, Munch Factory, MoPho, Mondo (created by Chef Susan Spicer), Cafe du Monde and Leah’s Kitchen, which pays homage to the late and much-beloved local chef Leah Chase.

A view of Leah
A view of Leah’s Cafe at the New Orleans airport, featuring a mural by Ayo Scott. (Photo by Harriet Baskas/TPG)

Featured photo courtesy of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

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