Heavy air traffic expected in BR

Baton Rouge tourism and airport officials are preparing for a large influx of traffic through the city because of the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

Some of the heaviest traffic will come through Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, where officials and businesses are expecting as many as 250 additional planes that will need to be parked during the event.

Ralph Hennessy, the assistant director of aviation at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, said the additional traffic through the airport would be “spillover” from New Orleans.

“The Super Bowl host committee has held a series of meetings with airports in the region,” he said.

About 1,400 planes — mostly corporate jets — flew into Indianapolis for the Super Bowl last year, he said. Airports in the region have been told to expect similar numbers this year.

“New Orleans can only handle about an additional 200 there,” he said.

When New Orleans runs out of space to house aircraft, some of them will be diverted to Baton Rouge and other airports in the region, such as New Orleans Lakefront, Houma, Slidell and Hammond, Hennessy said.

Others will drop off passengers in New Orleans and then park the airplanes at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport.

“We can accommodate an additional 250 aircraft,” Hennessy said.

In addition, airport officials contacted the commercial carriers that fly into Baton Rouge and asked them to consider using larger planes during the days surrounding the Super Bowl.

“It’s not an easy thing for an airline to take an aircraft out of one market and move it to an additional market,” Hennessy said.

“Are they going to do it? I don’t know.”

On a busy day, about 3,000 travelers go through Baton Rouge’s airport, Hennessy said. Predicting how many more would come through during the Super Bowl is impossible.

That would be determined by the number of seats on flights in and out of Baton Rouge, he said.

Delta Airlines has contacted airport officials about possibly parking some airplanes at Baton Rouge, but using them to ferry passengers to and from New Orleans during that week, he said.

Most of the additional traffic will be private jets, Hennessy said.

Landon Petty, general manager of Louisiana Aircraft, the largest fixed-base operator at the airport, said his staff would be ready for the extra planes.

“My staff and I are looking at this like it’s going to be a busy, big home SEC game,” he said. “When Bama was in town, we had 147 airplanes on the south ramp here.”

One difference, Petty said, is he expects more larger jets with the Super Bowl than for an LSU game.

Louisiana Aircraft already has reserved spots for two Challenger jets, a Gulfstream G4, a Global Express and a chartered Airbus 319, he said. Each of those jets seats at least 10 to 12 passengers and the Airbus seats 58.

Paul Arrigo, the president and chief executive officer of Visit Baton Rouge, said his office was trying to keep some of those visitors in Baton Rouge.

“We are anticipating a crowd that would be like a very good LSU game,” Arrigo said. “We are parlaying the fact that we have Mardi Gras parades that weekend.”

There will be no Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans between from Feb. 3-5.

Mardi Gras is Feb. 12.

Once the two Super Bowl teams are known, Visit Baton Rouge will begin advertising in those markets, Arrigo said.

“We have 10,000 hotel rooms in Baton Rouge,” Arrigo said.