Thursday expected to be busiest travel day at MSP since before pandemic

Airport officials estimate more than 35,000 people will travel through Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on Thursday, many of them traveling over the MEA school break. 

Jeff Lea, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Airports Commission, says on Thursday they’re expecting twice as many travelers as MEA weekend last year, when COVID-19 was still prevalent and travel traffic was low with about 17,000 people traveling. 

Lea says Thursday’s expected traffic is still about 25 to 30 percent less than a normal MEA weekend. In 2019, he says their busiest day of MEA break saw 47,000 travelers. He says overall traffic is still down 25 to 30 percent compared to 2019 levels. 

Even if number still aren’t reaching “normal” levels, he says staff are prepared for the influx of travelers. 

“The TSA, the airlines, the airport itself, all of our partners have been well prepared for this travel week in the sense that we have the projections, the booking forecasts and trying to move staffing around to handle those busy loads,” Lea said. 

He says TSA staffing is “certainly able to handle the loads” they’re expected to see over MEA. 

What’s not fully staffed are the restaurants and retail spaces beyond the gate. He says those are still operating at about 78 percent. 

Lea recommends getting to the airport at least two hours before your scheduled flight to ensure you can get through security and to your gate on time. 

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Go behind the scenes with the airport fire department at MSP

Go behind the scenes with the airport fire department at MSP

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MSP airport expects pandemic peak travel this month

ST. PAUL — Travelers heading out of town on spring break this month are expected to make March the busiest month for Twin Cities air travel since the COVID-19 pandemic struck a year ago.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is expecting as many as 28,000 passengers going through its checkpoints during peak travel days this month, well over the nearly 22,000 who passed through in late December. Before the pandemic, as many as 45,000 people could be expected to pass through the airport during peak spring break travel days.

Airport officials suggest travelers allocate additional time to catch their flights, arriving at least two hours before a domestic flight and two and a half hours before an international flight.

“While there will be far fewer spring break travelers this year than there were pre-pandemic, the airport will be busy, particularly at peak hours in the early and mid-morning and mid-afternoon,” said Brian Ryks, CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which operates MSP. “We’ve invested heavily in making the air travel journey safer for those who need or choose to travel. We strongly encourage travelers to support our health safety efforts by wearing their required face coverings, washing their hands regularly, using hand sanitizer, and abiding by social distancing recommendations, especially in check-in and security lines.”

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MSP Airport preps for busiest travel month since beginning of pandemic

With many preparing to travel for spring break in March, officials at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are preparing for what is expected to be their busiest month since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

MSP Airport could see a few days in March peaking at more than 28,000 passengers going through its checkpoints, well over the current pandemic peak of nearly 22,000 checkpoint passengers in a day set in late December, according to a news release. Pre-pandemic, busy spring break travel days often saw 35,000 to 45,000 people passing through the airport’s security checkpoints.

An average of 338 flights are expected to department MSP daily in March, up 21 from the average daily departures during MSP’s previous peak month during the pandemic in December. However, March departures are still projected to be 34% below this time last year, when the pandemic was only just beginning to impact air travel in the United States. 

MSP Airport officials say travelers should build in more time to get to the airport and to their gate. Travelers are advised to arrive at the airport at least two hours early for a domestic flight and two and a half hours early for an international flight. 

MSP Airport has put a number of new COVID-19 safety measures in place over the last several months, including: 

  • Queueing areas that promote better social distancing
  • “Robust” airport cleaning program
  • Hundreds of hand sanitizing stations across both terminals
  • Protective barriers at customer contact points 

MSP Airport recently launched a contactless online ordering portal called MSP ASAP that allows travelers to order food for pickup and delivery from multiple different restaurants or concession venues, including Blue Door Pub, Ike’s Club House and Hi-Lo Diner.  

Many restaurants at the MSP Airport have also employed QR codes for their menus and many concession venues are now accepting more app pay services to promote additional contactless transactions.  

For a contactless parking experience, travelers can pre-book their parking online and scan a QR code from the online parking confirmation to enter and exit the parking ramp. 

Delta Air Lines is preparing for an influx of passengers in March by increasing its check-in capacity in Terminal 1. Delta will open its east curb check-in counters beginning March 10, which will operate daily between 6 a.m. and noon. Delta’s Tram Level ticket counters will also be open at various times to offer another alternative to its main ticketing lobby counters. 

MSP Airport is asking travelers to support their health and safety measures by continuing to wear their required face coverings, washing their hands regularly, using hand sanitizer and abiding by social distancing recommendations, especially in check-in and security lines. 

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