ALA New Orleans, an informal post

I’ve been seeing a lot of list traffic about possible ground transportation problems in New Orleans. Seems as if those who’ve actually been there recently don’t see a problem; those who quote their brother’s cousin see BIG problems.

I’m going to post here what I just posted to LITA-L, where much of the discussion has occurred:

For those of you looking for things to worry about in terms of transportation:

Getting from the New Orleans airport to your hotel may be the easy part. (Or may not, but the direct reports sound good.)

The crunch may be getting “to and from New Orleans airport” from where you live.

Total lift capacity* will be 12,308 beginning June 10 (when Southwest begins/resumes several flights).

Right now, it’s 11,486.

Pre-Katrina, it was 21,000.
*Lift capacity: The number of seats available each day in and out of the airport, if all flights are 100% full.

If, as appears likely, ALA really is at fairly typical attendance levels (which I hope it will be, and yes, I’m going), that means some 20,000 people–mostly arriving Friday/Saturday, mostly leaving Monday eve./Tuesday.

You do the math.

If you don’t already have your air tickets, the last thing you may need to worry about is that they’ll be more expensive than you expected. The first thing may be whether they’re available at all.

And if you do already have your air tickets: This may not be the trip on which to demonstrate your acumen at showing up for a flight at the last minute. Standby could be a very long process.

Here’s the flipside–and there’s almost always a flipside:

Do that math. Realistically, more than half (and probably close to 2/3) of the passengers on any Friday or Saturday morning flight into MSY will be ALA attendees (as will probably 2/3 of the passengers on any outbound Tuesday flight). So if you just say “Hey, going to ALA and want to share a cab?” chances are you’ll get plenty of takers. (With two people, cab fare’s a buck more than shuttle fare. With three, it’s a buck less: $28 for one or two passengers, $12 per passenger for three or more.)

As for me: barring a miracle (an empty seat on an earlier flight, I’ll get off American flight 697 from DFW at 5:15 p.m., no checked luggage, and head for the taxi line as fast as my little feet can carry me…and I’d be delighted to share a cab. I’m at the Embassy Suites, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

[Here’s my rueful prediction for ALA New Orleans: Most people will have a great time. Plenty of restaurants, most of them, in the convention area and nearby will be open and eager for business: Last time I checked, every place I’ve eaten at the last three conferences is up and running. Since tourism is by far NO’s biggest employer, the real people will truly appreciate our business and, maybe, a 20-25% tip. Meetings will be well attended. It will be hot and sultry.

And at least one jackass will do something utterly stupid, get mugged, and blame it on ALA for sending us to That Hellhole in Louisiana. I’d bet at least one jackass has done something utterly stupid and gotten mugged at every single ALA conference–but usually they have to blame the person in the mirror. Now there’s a big fat scapegoat.

Before I get nasty email: I’m not implying that mugging is always or usually the victim’s fault. But sometimes? Yep. If you go for a walking tour of the cemeteries, by yourself, at night, or you pick up some good-lookin’ stranger who turns out to be stranger than you thought…well, you know, it isn’t ALA’s fault.]

4 Responses to “ALA New Orleans, an informal post”

  1. jessamyn says:

    I just got my tickets a few days ago and was pleasantly surpised to get reasonable priced tickets that weren’t at some crazystupid time of day. JetBlue, Burlington (small airport) to New Orleans, one connection $320 including all taxes etc. I suggest for people who need to try out a whole bunch of airports and/or dates all at once.

  2. walt says:

    Well, $320 (actually $318.20) is what I paid for San Jose to New Orleans on American, one connection–but I booked considerably farther ahead. I’d guess you did pretty well. From what I’ve heard, Kayak is a good suggestion.

  3. Dave Tyckoson says:

    Or avoid the airport all together and take the train to N.O. I have no idea if any seats or rooms are left on Amtrak, but I suspect that the four of us in my group will not be the only librarians who will be “riding on the City of New Orleans.” Anyone else who will be on the train from Chicago arriving Thursday or leaving New Orleans on Wednesday is welcome to join me for a drink in the lounge car, watching the world slowly roll past.

  4. walt says:

    Dave: What a great idea–if it’s feasible. From here, I don’t believe it is (or, let’s say, I couldn’t spare that much time and expense: looking at Amtrak’s schedules and fares, looks like I’d have to allow 4 days each direction, three minimum, and $800+ each way, since there’s no way I could survive sitting in a coach seat for three nights; that turns a four-day trip at $420 total transportation(including shuttle and parking in San Jose) into at least a ten-day trip at $1600+ transportation).

    Too bad. I like Amtrak, even if it’s a little bedraggled these days. My wife and I did take the California Zephyr to and from ALA in Chicago in 1979 (?); it was a great way to go. (She took the Zephyr to and from Chicago more recently; the food and service have gone downhill, unfortunately.) We used to take the Zephyr to and from Reno every January as well; gorgeous scenery and the time to enjoy it.

    Enjoy yourself; that’s a one-day trip, and few trains are as fabled as the City of New Orleans!