A new charter operator will begin offering flights from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to three regional destinations in November, officials said Tuesday.
New Orleans-based GLO will offer daily nonstop, round-trip flights to Shreveport as well as Little Rock, Arkansas, and Memphis, Tennessee.
The flights will be operated by Corporate Flight Management Inc., which will use 30-passenger Saab 340B aircraft on the routes.
GLO founder and CEO Trey Fayard said he believes the areas are underserved and expects to attract businesspeople seeking an alternative to driving and multiple-stop flights.
Fayard is judging by his own experience.
“We just couldn’t get there from here,” Fayard said of a lack of local direct flights, “and we were wasting a tremendous amount of money and, in some cases almost more importantly, time because these destinations aren’t easily reachable.”
After six years of planning, GLO has three planes and about 30 employees.
Fayard said he chose the three destinations after extensive research, which included driving to dozens of cities and airports in the South to gauge the potential demand for the service.
“There’s no recipe on how to start anything like this,” he said.
Though he’s not a pilot, Fayard said he’s always had an interest in airplanes, which fueled his vision for the effort.
“Some people like cars. Some people like boats. I’ve always liked airplanes,” he said.
In some areas of the country, small charter operators have sprung up to offer short direct flights between major cities, allowing busy travelers to avoid long drives or skip changing flights.
For local business travelers, being able to fly round-trip to Shreveport in a day could be attractive, even if it’s more expensive than a commercial flight, industry experts say. The five-hour drive to Shreveport could be replaced with an 81-minute flight.
GLO plans to offer promotional one-way trips starting at $189. On weekdays, it will offer two flights per day to each city.
“It’s an understandable desire to have nonstop service, especially when the alternative is highly circuitous, very time-consuming trips via somebody’s hubs,” said Robert Mann, an airline consultant based in New York.
To make it work financially long term, GLO must fill enough seats regularly to grow and expand on its initial flight times and destinations, he said.
“These are not inexpensive flights,” Mann said. “These are business-priced airfares for which businesspeople would expect productivity, which means the flight options and the availability of different times a day of service. Ultimately, what this all comes down to is how does this develop. It’s not so much how it starts but how it develops.”
Fayard said he has other markets in mind to expand the charter service after business picks up.
In addition to local travelers, New Orleans’ business reputation could benefit from new direct flights, said Peter Ricchiuti, a finance professor at Tulane University.
“These flights are what open up business opportunities,” he said. “When you hear companies complain about New Orleans or think twice about moving their operation here, it’s the lack of nonstops out of New Orleans that is the single greatest complaint you hear or reason not to be here.”
Ricchiuti said it’s difficult to predict demand for the service. He said the three cities don’t strike him as filling obvious needs for business travelers. Still, it’s a positive sign overall and could provide a foundation for future growth, he said.
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.