MSP Newsletter, February 2018

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MSP International Airport sets new passenger record in 2017

In 2017, a record 38,034,341 passengers traveled through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), 1.4 percent more than in 2016. The previous record of 37,604,373 was set in 2005.


In 2009, following the bankruptcies and mergers of Northwest and Delta Air Lines and the 2008 national recession, MSP had fallen to its modern-day low of 32,379,195 passengers. Passenger levels have grown slowly but steadily since then toward the 2017 peak.


Eight airlines have launched service to MSP since 2008: Air Choice One, Air France, Alaska, Boutique, Condor, KLM, Southwest and Spirit. In May 2018, Jet Blue will become the 9th, with three daily departures to Boston.

brian ryks

“For eight years, we’ve experienced steady, sustainable growth at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport,” said Brian Ryks (pictured), executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which owns and operates MSP and six general aviation airports. “While MSP remains Delta Air Lines’ second largest hub and home to Sun Country Airlines, we have seen significant growth in recent years by low-cost competitors such as Southwest, Spirit and Frontier. We’ve also seen a shift away from regional airlines toward more seats flown by mainline carriers using larger aircraft. The result is that passenger growth has far outpaced the increase in flight activity, which is good news from an environmental standpoint.”

Aircraft operations (landings and takeoffs) in 2017 totaled 416,213, up 0.7 percent over 2016. The 2017 operations total remains far below the 2004 peak, when MSP experienced 541,093 aircraft operations.

From a market share perspective, hub carrier Delta Air Lines and its regional partners carried nearly 70.7 percent of passengers in 2017, followed by Sun Country (6.6 percent), American (6.4 percent), Southwest (5.6 percent), United (4.6 percent) and Spirit (3.4 percent). The other 10 airlines serving MSP carried the remaining 2.7 percent of travelers.

In 2017, 60 percent of people boarding planes at MSP began their journey at the airport. The other 40 percent began their journey elsewhere and simply connected to another flight at MSP. Those connecting travelers were a driving force behind MSP’s ability to offer service to more than 159 direct destinations in 2017, 58 of which are served by multiple airlines.

Some 229,440 metric tons of cargo moved through MSP in 2017, nearly 11 percent more than in 2016.

An economic impact study published in September 2017 estimates that MSP supports 86,900 jobs and generates $15.9 billion in total economic output for the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The airport generates $2.5 billion in visitor spending annually and generates $973 million in taxes for local, state and federal programs.

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MSP's Super Bowl Monday was its busiest day ever

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport’s (MSP) own Super Bowl of passenger traffic occurred the day after the game, as 60,883 travelers passed through security checkpoints.


That figure on Monday, Feb. 5, marked MSP’s busiest day ever by a wide margin. The 60,883 is almost 30 percent higher than MSP’s previous busiest day in history, which was March 10, 2017, when 47,000 travelers passed through security checkpoints.


While passenger traffic was at a high volume throughout Monday, the longest wait time at security checkpoints was 23 minutes and traffic moved consistently and efficiently.


“The smooth airport operations on Monday, and the entire Super Bowl week, were the result of months of planning and a true team effort,” said Brian Ryks, CEO and executive director of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which owns and operates MSP and six reliever airports in the Twin Cities area.


“Everyone who works at our airports and the hundreds of volunteers who offered assistance rose to the occasion and worked hard to provide passengers a safe, enjoyable experience,” Ryks said. “The airlines, TSA, FAA, fixed base operators and many other airport business partners were essential to providing a smooth traveler experience during our airports’ busiest day ever.” 

Click on the photo to see a time lapse of MSP's busy Monday.


The Transportation Security Administration brought in additional staff and dogs trained to detect explosives, allowing for thorough and fast security checks. The airport also processed more than 34,000 bags on Monday the 5th – double a normal day of baggage handling.

The Airport Police Department and the MAC’s Landside Operations department helped manage traffic on Terminal 1’s inbound roadway on Monday to keep traffic moving.

A new expansion to Terminal 1’s ticketing level, which opened a couple of weeks earlier, provided more space for queueing as passengers moved through security lines. 


A week before the Super Bowl, MSP facilitated the team arrival events for both the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, with the assistance of Delta Air Lines and the NFL. More than 100 media attended each arrival.

Pictured: New England coach Bill Belichick arrives at MSP.

MSP had 145 private aircraft parked on the airfield Sunday afternoon near game time (see MSP video here), and the three largest reliever airports – Flying Cloud, Anoka County and Downtown St. Paul -- together had 450 on the ground. Hundreds more private aircraft dropped passengers off at MAC airports and parked elsewhere. 

Click the photo for a video of the private planes at the MAC's Flying Cloud Airport during the Super Bowl.


Also, a 2.5-inch snowfall on the Saturday before the game did not cause significant delays or cancellations, as the MAC’s maintenance crews kept the airfields plowed and primed for air traffic.

“We’re proud of what we accomplished during a time that demanded our best,” said Phil Burke, MSP’s director of operations. “Everyone pulled together the entire week and we’re pleased we were able to provide exceptional service.” 

Airport projects gear up again post-Super Bowl

new esca

As MSP geared up for increased passenger traffic on the days around Super Bowl 52, several airport construction projects went on a brief hiatus to minimize disruptions for travelers.


As 2018 rolls on, work has already resumed on numerous projects designed to make a trip through MSP more appealing and efficient.


The new skyway connecting Terminal 1's Concourse C and the new InterContinental Hotel will be completed this spring, along with new escalators, stairs and an elevator serving the skyway level.


The newly expanded ticketing level at Terminal 1 opened last month, along with new escalators (pictured) and elevators. That expansion of the north end of the ticketing – or departure -- level will be followed soon by a similar expansion of the south end, again with improved options for passengers to move between floors. That work will extend beyond 2018.


On the baggage claim -- or arrivals -- level, renovations will start in coming weeks, including a new south security exit, new escalators and elevators. The walls along the roadway will also be pushed farther out.


“The changes coming to MSP expand interior space and increase our capacity,” said Bridget Rief, the airport’s vice president for planning and development. “But the new areas are also designed to enhance travelers’ experiences, making their arrivals and departures seamless and enjoyable.”

A rendering of the remodeled food court in Terminal 1 when complete.


A recently completed concession bidding process will bring 30 new restaurants to Terminal 1 as well, giving diners an abundance of choices for both quick bites or leisurely meals.

Some of those new options will be located in the expanded Terminal 1 food court, located just off the Airport Mall. Work is beginning soon on that project and will ultimately lead to a larger dining area with an expansive, two-story view of planes on the tarmac along Concourses E and F. 

MSP recognizes 5-star service from airport concessionaires


MSP recently recognized airport-based businesses that had the best customer-service rankings in 2017.

The airport's concessions are assessed throughout the year using a secret-shopper program that gauges how they respond to travelers and evaluates the overall customer experience. It takes consistent, near-perfect marks to be nominated.

Several businesses were nominated in each category and the six winners listed below took home plaques and bragging rights for 2017.

Best Casual Dining: Black Sheep Coal-Fired Pizza on Terminal 1's main mall.

Best Quick Service: Caribou Coffee on Concourse A.

Best Specialty Retail: Kiehl's skin care and cosmetic products on the main mall.

Best News and Convenience: Estes Twin Cities News on Concourse A.

Sustainability Award: Smack Shack in the main mall.

Merchant of the Year: Delaware North.

Delaware North is one of MSP's leading contractors in the concession space and last year opened four  restaurants, seven convenience stores and eight retail shops as part of the airport's ongoing refresh of its commercial space.

Food Truck Alley awarded for form and function


The kudos keep rolling in for Food Truck Alley, the three-restaurant concept that opened last year on Concourse E in MSP’s Terminal 1.


Restaurant Design and Development Magazine recently gave Food Truck Alley its Form + Function Award for its unique take on a traditional food court. The space -- which includes Red Cow bar and restaurant, Salty Tart Bakery and Holy Land Deli -- also received an honorable mention in the Best Limited-Service Restaurant Design Award category.


Food Truck Alley occupies 3,805 square feet, and the three restaurants share a single kitchen with three separate lines. The space features refurbished food trucks and an Airstream trailer.


The panel of judges who handed out the awards said that Food Truck Alley had challenges that the designers “cleverly” overcame. They also noted that food trucks are authentically local -- a selling point for customers who want to support those businesses.


“The fan base of Food Truck Alley keeps growing, and the design’s energy continues to pull in travelers for a dining experience they didn’t expect to encounter in an airport,” said Liz Grzechowiak, the assistant director of concessions and business development at MSP. “We appreciate the recognition from RDD.”

New exit at Terminal 2 adds convenience


A new exit for airline passengers at the north end of Terminal 2-Humphrey is providing added convenience and automated security.

Located next to Checkpoint 1, the new exit installed by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) also features a motion-detecting security system that keeps anyone walking in the wrong direction out of the secure side of the terminal and allows the exit to operate without a constant staff presence.

The exit has two sets of double doors, each equipped with a "backflow sensor" that can tell if someone is walking in instead of exiting. Once detected, the doors close so that no one can enter the secure side, and an alarm sounds. The doors on the non-secure side will open to allow the person to exit, and audio instructions will tell the person what to do. Flashing lights guide people who are hard-of-hearing to exit into the non-secure area.

The airport's Emergency Control Center is also notified of the incident.

The new system at Terminal 2 underwent extensive testing before it went into service a couple of weeks ago. 

People walking out the door from the secure side won't notice any difference in the doors' operation.

Currently, all other exits for passengers out of secure areas at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) are staffed by personnel from the Transportation Security Administration. As new and redesigned exits are installed in the future, the MAC will look for opportunities to use technology similar to that used at Terminal 2. 

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