Local film industry makes case for direct flights to LAX

By Cheryl Mercedes

The film industry is behind a plan to add Los Angeles to the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport's list of departures.

The Baton Rouge Metro Airport sees its fair share of traffic. It's close, quick, and convenient for most people. But some business passengers who travel to the west coast want to add Los Angeles to Baton Rouge's list of departures.

Producer, Daniel Lewis, said in showbiz there is little room for error. He said he flies from New Orleans to avoid possible delays on connecting flights. But getting there can be a hassle.

"I have to wake up at probably 3:30 a.m., 4 a.m. drive to New Orleans, get there roughly an hour and half before, park, get in there, hop on a plane, and it's the same thing coming back," Lewis said.

Executive Director at Celtic Media Center, Patrick Mulhearn, is making a case for a direct flight from Baton Rouge to Los Angeles.

"We know that the film industry would certainly book a lot of seats on that flight," Mulhearn said.

While his primary concern is connecting movie producers and actors to Baton Rouge, Mulhearn believes the concept goes far beyond the film industry.

"We think that it's something that may make Baton Rouge and Acadiana more attractive for doing business," Mulhearn said.

Marketing and Air Services Manager for the Baton Rouge Metro Airport, Jim Caldwell, said while he welcomes the idea, the airlines must first take the bait. Caldwell said current data shows an estimated 25 to 30 people fly from Baton Rouge to Los Angeles daily. He said that is not enough to support a direct route to LAX.

"If you consider tracking some of your leakage to other airports stimulating the market, commitments to film industry you might be able to make, that can change things," Caldwell said.

Mulhearn said it is something he is working on. He is hoping other local businesses, such as industry, will see a need too and help strengthen his efforts.

"We know the film industry can produce some impressive numbers but really it's about getting everybody on board with this idea," Mulhearn said.

Caldwell added, United Airlines has expressed interest in adding service from Baton Rouge to Chicago, Denver or Washington D.C.