New Orleans airport to honor free parking for disabled veterans
BATON ROUGE - The Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport will soon be following state law that allows disabled veterans who are traveling to park for free.
Six out of seven Louisiana airports have been following this law since August 1, 2017, after it was passed by the Louisiana State Legislature.
For the past two and a half months, the airport says it's been waiting on the Federal Aviation Administration concurrence. Still, the airport says it cannot comment on behalf of the FAA about what the hold-up was and a representative from the FAA tells WBRZ details have to come from the airport.
The legislation sponsored by state Rep. Johnny Berthelot, R-Gonzales, allows disabled veterans to park for free for up to day days.
"It's just a way to say thank you and I think it's a great way to say thank you," said Berthelot.
In an interview with WBRZ Wednesday, Berthelot says he recently learned that the New Orleans airport was not complying with state law when disabled veterans started calling his office.
"To me, it's a no-brainer but for some reason, the city of New Orleans has brought up an issue that they might lose their FAA federal dollars," he said.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport Deputy Director Michelle Wilcut tells 2 On Your Side, airports accepting Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants from the FAA, must comply with various rules, regulations, federal laws, and grant assurances. To ensure compliance, the airport submitted a veterans parking plan for review. All AIP funding could have been at risk if concurrence had not been received prior to this plan being implemented.
The airport is currently working to construct a new terminal facility and has received over $80 million in funding in the past four years.
Parking is a source of airport revenue and it's subject to FAA revenue review since that money is to be used for aviation purposes. Wilcut says the FAA has asked the airport to track and submit a report on the value of the parking provided under this program.
It's estimated revenue impact could be $1 million. Wilcut says the number is based on a percentage of use of the veterans benefit. She says a five percent utilization could result in up to a $1 million impact on airport revenue and up to $200,000 in local and state tax revenues.
Doug Hill, a disabled veteran and frequent flyer at the New Orleans airport say he can't understand why the airport did not comply in the first place.
"I did not know that grant money superseded state law," said Hill.
He's happy to know now that he can soon park there and be reimbursed.
The airport says the veterans parking benefit will only be available for parking after the FAA concurrence was received and all necessary procedures have been put in place.
On the airport's website, it says the airport will require certain forms to be completed in advance of exiting the Airport's parking facilities. These forms are available here.