Getting Around New Orleans, Part 1

by Gray Cargill on January 3, 2009

I flew into and out of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport during my recent visit to the Big Easy.  As airports go, it’s on the small side compared to most airports I’ve traveled through.  But it’s clean and bright and it didn’t take long to get my bags upon my arrival or to get through security as I was leaving town.  Ground transportation was easy to find and there seemed to be adequate seating at the gates.  The plus of such a smallish airport is you don’t have too far to walk to get from your gate to baggage claim.  (Not like, say, Atlanta.)  I didn’t notice much about the dining and shopping facilities when I landed in Terminal C (United, Ted), because I was just in a hurry to get out of there.  But Terminal D, where Jetblue flies from, is really tiny, with few dining options.  So eat before you leave for the airport if you’re flying Jetblue.

The airport is about a 30-minute ride to the French Quarter.  I used two different modes of transportation for arrival and departure, which made for an interesting comparison.  For the trip into the Quarter, I decided to save some money and get a ticket on the Airport Shuttle New Orleans (504-522-3500).  Their price is $15 each way, and you can buy a $30 round trip ticket at the airport if you want.  For your return trip, you just need to call them 24 hours before departure to confirm pickup.  There are some things to keep in mind if you decide to take the shuttle.

  • First, this is cheaper than a cab if you are traveling alone, but if you have even one other traveling companion, you’re better off splitting the cost of a cab.
  • Second, know that taking the shuttle is not the quickest way to travel.  I arrived just as one shuttle was leaving, so I got in line for the next one.  But the man controlling the line at the airport split us into two groups (I assume the other group was going somewhere other than the French Quarter) and when the next shuttle came 20 minutes later, he directed it to the other group.  So I had to wait 40 minutes to even get on the shuttle.  Had I taken a cab, I’d have already been in my room at the hotel!  Then it was probably another 45 minutes to get to the French Quarter and drop everyone else off.
  • Which brings me to point three, which is: You might have to sit on that shuttle while everyone else is let off at their hotels ahead of you, so deal with it.   I was prepared for this, and I didn’t mind having the opportunity to get the lay of the land as he drove us around the Quarter dropping everyone else off at their hotels.  However, the guy sitting next to me went ballistic when he realized he was literally going to be the last one dropped off.  He got into a heated verbal argument with the driver about what a waste of his time it was and got off in a huff at my stop, grabbed his suitcase, and walked the rest of the way to his hotel.  I tipped the driver a couple of bucks and said he could use me as a reference if he needed to in order to verify his version of events.  I mean, he was just doing his job.  So if you’re the impatient type, take a cab.

However, all that said, I have to say that in the future, I probably would not use the airport shuttle again.  Everyone affiliated with it was very friendly and personable, but it just takes too long to get into town on the shuttle.  I had planned to have lunch at Napoleon House on Friday, figuring I’d be at my hotel about an hour after my plane landed. Well, my flight was delayed by about 35 minutes and arrived at 12:40.  But my bag was one of the first off the carousel, so I was still feeling optimistic about my plans.  Unfortunately, because of how long the shuttle took, by the time I got to my hotel and unpacked, it made more sense to find a place close by to have an early dinner instead of a late lunch.  I missed an entire meal in New Orleans, and with all the great places to eat there, that was disappointing.

On Tuesday, I took the advice I saw from many different sources online and called United Cabs (504-522-9771) to schedule my return trip to the airport.  They have a reputation as being the most trustworthy and safest cab company in New Orleans. The trip cost $30*, but it was just a 30 minute ride.  The cab was waiting for me at the hotel right on the dot of eight a.m., as I’d asked.  My driver, Eddie, was a former city tour guide and pointed out a lot of sites along the way, as well as telling me his story of survival during and after Katrina.  Eddie, as well as two other tour guides I had during this trip were a wealth of information about the city’s history and events leading up to Katrina.  I will talk about this more in a future blog post.  But for now, suffice it to say, I highly recommend United Cabs and if you can get Eddie as your driver, you’ll be glad you did.

* Flat rate before tip for 1-2 passengers.  3-5 passengers is $12/passenger plus a $2 fuel surcharge.

Previous post:

Next post: