New Orleans Airport May Go Private

The Federal Aviation Administration, which is overseeing a trial program to privatize up to five U.S. airports, has given Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport permission to become a private airport, USA Today reported last week.

Having received FAA approval, airport officials may now begin searching for private investors who are willing to pay to own the airport under the terms of a long-term lease. Although the private owner-operator would keep profits from running the airport, the arrangement could benefit New Orleans, too. While the city would be stripped of its ownership and operational rights, it could receive a windfall from the deal, which might also make it easier to fund and execute future airport expansion and improvement projects.

Once it finds a private operator, New Orleans Armstrong airport will submit its final privatization application to the FAA, at which point it will also have to seek approval from the city council and from 65 percent of its airline tenants. According to USA Today, the airport hopes to submit its final application by fall 2010.

Currently, the only other U.S. airport to receive privatization approval has been Chicago Midway Airport, which so far has had trouble finding a private investor.