MAC Newsletter, February 2019

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The MAC preps MSP International for Final Four weekend

When college basketball fans show up in the Twin Cities in early April for the Final Four, their first and last impression of the area for many will be at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).

Over the last year, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) -- which owns and operates MSP -- has been working with numerous partners to make sure the airport is prepared to welcome the crowds and make their airport experience seamless.

“The work we did on Super Bowl 52 in 2018 is helping us prepare for another big event,” said Phil Burke, the co-chair of the airport’s Final Four organizing committee, and MSP’s assistant director-customer experience. “We’re excited to take it to the hoop and help travelers have an easy, enjoyable passage through MSP.”

A total of 29 committees at the airport have been working together in preparation for the Final Four, including groups from the FAA, TSA, and the NCAA.

ff bracket

A guiding principle behind the planning is “Play your game, have some fun,” which emphasizes that airport employees should focus on doing their job but also embrace the high-energy atmosphere of hosting a potentially once-in-a-lifetime event. The Final Four’s semifinal games will be played Saturday, April 6, and the National Championship on Monday, April 8.

Passengers moving through MSP will see Final Four branding in several locations and three large, wall-sized graphics depicting the bracket for the field of 64 teams. Those brackets will be on the baggage claim level and Concourse F at Terminal 1, and in the lobby of Terminal 2.

The brackets will be updated after each round of the tournament and will make for great photo opportunities.

Similar to the Super Bowl, the MAC is collaborating with several groups to provide volunteers during Final Four weekend. Employees from Metro Transit, the Final Four local organizing committee and the airport’s Traveler’s Assistance program are coordinating their plans to make sure volunteers are at the right place at the right time.

The volunteers will guide visitors to food, transportation and any other need they have when they arrive that weekend. The volunteers will also be present throughout the Final Four weekend and will be on hand Tuesday, April 9, when the fans leave en masse to catch a flight home.

The airport expects about 47,000 passengers to pass through security that Tuesday – a heavier number than usual but less than the 60,000 who departed the Monday after Super Bowl 52.

The Final Four also attracts significant private plane traffic, and the MAC is preparing to accommodate those fliers whether they’re coming in for the full weekend or only Monday’s National Championship game.

To keep those private flights operating efficiently, the MAC’s Information Technology division is working with Channel 1 Media -- a Canadian firm that developed the private plane reservation system that the NFL uses each year for the Super Bowl.

The MAC offered up some ideas on enhancing the software, and ground service firms at MSP and the MAC’s reliever airports will use the reservation system during the Final Four.

The online system allows service providers at MSP and the reliever airports -- such as St. Paul Downtown, Flying Cloud and Anoka County-Blaine -- to set up and track aircraft parking reservations along with arrivals and departures. A dashboard for users lets them see the volume of flights at any given hour during the weekend.

The FAA provides time slots for landing that are placed in the reservation system – and pilots are already claiming slots for the Final Four weekend.

“We don’t expect the volume of private aircraft to match what we saw for the Super Bowl,” Burke said, “but we’re focused on providing the same high level of service as we did 12 months ago.”

2019 capital improvement projects transforming Terminal 1

Passengers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) will notice a number of improvements to Terminal 1 continuing to take shape in 2019, including new escalators serving the terminal’s south side and a new exit from Concourse G to the baggage claim level.

The renovation work at the front of Terminal 1 streamlines movement between levels and creates additional space on the ticketing level.

This summer, new escalators serving the interior of Terminal 1 on its south side will begin operating. The escalators will bring passengers to the baggage claim and ticketing level, and additional new, centrally located elevators will be installed in months following, providing a lift between T1’s levels.

new south exit

A rendering of the remodeled area of Concourse G, with the new south exit on the left.

When complete, passengers arriving at Terminal 1 on the tram level will be able to choose from six elevators straight ahead of them or escalators to their right or left.

The new escalators on the remodeled portion of Terminal 1’s north side began operating last year, along with three of the six elevators.

This fall, travelers will begin using a new south exit off of Concourse G, improving the flow of passenger traffic into the baggage claim level. The re-located exit will also provide space for another baggage carousel on the baggage claim level.

new baggage claim level center

In the center of the baggage claim level (pictured), work is underway on new restrooms, along with a lactation room and a nursing mothers’ room. Nearby, a meeting space will feature the interactive portion of a new iconic art piece designed by renowned artist Jen Lewin.

The first new baggage claim device will begin operating in 2020. The new carousels will feature lighting with a water-like effect and sounds found in nature, indicating that bags are about to arrive.

Other 2019 projects that passengers might not notice -- but that serve critical roles -- include the installation of four new passenger boarding bridges at airline gates, and new centerline lights on a taxiway near Terminal 1.

Also, work continues on several concessions-related projects including the new Airport Mall food court. Work is also underway on the concessions at the north end of the Airport Mall, including the current French Meadow, which will be replaced by several new offerings, including People’s Organic, The Cook and the Ox, a Caribou Coffee and a Leeann Chin’s.

Details on those new restaurants will be available late this year when they’re set to open.

New committee structure for MAC Board of Commissioners

The MAC board at its Feb. 19 committee meeting voted unanimously to change its bylaws, reducing the number of standing committees from three to two. The change is designed to improve efficiency, foster more strategic discussions and provide opportunities for each of the board’s 15 commissioners to engage on a broader range of matters at the committee level.

The Finance and Administration (F&A) and Management and Operations (M&O) committees have been combined to form a single new committee: Operations, Finance and Administration (OF&A). Topics previously reviewed by F&A as well as the bulk of the matters previously heard by M&O will move to this new, consolidated committee.


Exceptions are legislative and information technology issues, which will now be heard in the board’s other, pre-existing committee: Planning Development and Environment (PD&E). Transferring those topics to PD&E provides better workload balance between the two committees.

The change also reflects the broader definition of “planning” as it pertains to the committee. Historically, the committee’s primary planning focus was on long term airport planning. More recently, the planning focus has expanded to include other topics, including strategic and sustainability planning, and planning related to marketing, corporate communications, air service development, and engagement.

The change is effective March 1, 2019. The committees will continue to meet on the first Monday of every month. The PD&E Committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. and the OF&A Committee at 1 p.m. Chairs of the board and committees may alter meeting schedules due to holidays or other reasons.

The new structure is part of a broader streamlining effort that MAC commissioners and senior staff embarked upon last June. The streamlining related to commission meetings has three objectives:

  • Support informed, transparent decision-making at the governance and policy level
  • Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of communicating information to commissioners
  • Ensure commission and committee meetings are as efficient and effective as possible

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