News from the MAC Chair

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With health, social and financial impacts of new COVID-19 variants creating turbulence throughout 2021, it’s understandable that 2022 came with a sigh of relief for many.

I want to take a moment, though, to look back at how the Metropolitan Airports Commission and its airports, particularly Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP), fared during the past year.

MSP Airport Operations

Passenger traffic at MSP grew 70 percent in 2021, to 25.2 million, but remained 36 percent below the record set in 2019. Flight activity likewise increased, up 24 percent, to 303,850 takeoffs and landings, but still significantly down from 2019’s total of 406,124 aircraft operations. Only cargo activity, driven by rising ecommerce, showed gains over the previous two years, with metric tons shipped up 15.2 percent over 2020 and 2.5 percent over 2019.

MSP gained 27 new year-round or seasonal destinations from six airlines in 2020, reaching a total 137 non-stop destinations. While an increase from 2020, the total remains below the 167 total destinations served in 2019. The airport has recovered 19 of 30 pre-pandemic international routes, including service to Calgary, Cancun, Amsterdam, Paris and Reykjavik. Service to London, Seoul and Tokyo is likely to return sometime this year.

The percentage of travelers beginning or ending their journey at MSP continues to grow, to 67 percent in 2021 up from 63 percent in 2019, a 4 percent decline in travelers using the airport to connect between flights.

Combating COVID

Last summer, the MAC partnered with the Minnesota Health Department to offer COVID-19 vaccinations at MSP’s terminals. Through December, nearly 5,400 people were vaccinated through the program. The state had already launched a COVID-19 testing site adjacent to the Blue and Red parking ramps at Terminal 1. In 2021, the site administered nearly 350,000 COVID-19 PCI tests. In addition, the MAC partnered with retailer Wandertest to offer rapid testing for travelers and others in need of quick results.    

Also in 2021, the MAC earned facility safety accreditations through the Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s GBAC STAR program and Airports Council International’s Airport Health Accreditation programs. Accreditation requires strict adherence to a wide range of requirements aimed at reducing spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 as well as strict safety standards and emergency preparedness measures. The MAC was reaccredited by both organizations this year.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

In October, the MAC board unanimously approved a resolution to cancel and condemn discriminatory covenants imbedded in deeds of properties acquired by the organization. The deeds were primarily related to housing developments purchased by the MAC more than 20 years ago to make way for construction of Runway 17/35 on the west side of the airport.

The MAC board also approved a new holiday for MAC employees: Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery and the triumphs, culture and achievements of African Americans here in Minnesota and across the nation.

In addition, the MAC partnered with stakeholders to launch the new Airport Equity Advisory Committee, with representatives from a variety of businesses throughout the MSP community. The committee will advise the MAC on ways to promote equity in the organization’s programs, policies, regulations and activities.

Airport Improvements

We continued to improve facilities at the front of Terminal 1, namely ticketing, bag claim, valet parking and lost-and-found spaces. New Delta ticket counters near the South Security Checkpoint came online, speeding passengers’ check-in process. The South Security Checkpoint itself was expanded to nine lanes (from six). Terrazzo flooring continued to be installed, bringing with it a brighter and more modern aesthetic. Paired with a narrowed mezzanine and improved lighting, the front end of Terminal 1 has grown much more spacious, attractive and efficient.

You cannot enter Terminal 1 without being struck by The Aurora. As one of our largest art installations to date, The Aurora officially debuted in 2021 to much fanfare. Its interactivity draws passengers in from both the arrivals and departures levels and serves as a dazzling 29-foot-high centerpiece and wayfinding point for MSP’s busiest terminal.

On the arrivals level, we have installed several large new luggage carousels with more coming online in 2022. Expanded square footage, improved lighting, modern finishes and upgraded restrooms provide a welcoming atmosphere for travelers arriving at MSP.

As the year came to a close, we opened more space at the east end of Concourse G, between gates G17 and G22. A new sky-lit rotunda anchors the new space at the terminus of the C-G connector skyway. New restrooms were put into service, and the larger gate hold spaces and new concession venues will open this year. Delta Air Lines has begun finishing out the upper-level space near the rotunda for its third Sky Club at MSP.

Work Continues for Award-winning Snow Removal Team

The MAC reached fair, market-based labor agreements with members of the Teamsters Local 320 and International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 at the bargaining table in January. Both unions represent MAC Field Maintenance employees who conduct snow removal at MAC airports. The MAC employees have earned a well-deserved reputation as one of the nation’s best airport snow teams, and it’s reassuring to know they will remain in the cabs of our snow removal equipment as winter continues.

Most Efficient Airport in North America

For the fourth time in five years, the Air Transport Research Society named MSP the most efficient airport in North America in the 24 to 40 million passengers category. MSP was one of only 12 airports globally to receive the award in 2021.

Looking Ahead

In 2022 there will be significant focus on planning. The MAC will complete the update to its long-term plan for Minneapolis-St. Paul International and will continue work on a long-term plan update for Flying Cloud Airport. The plans will identify potential facility needs over a 20-year timespan. In addition, the MAC will develop its strategic plan for 2023-2027.

Work will continue on improvements to ticketing and bag claim at Terminal 1, and construction will begin on a new fire station to replace an aging facility located near the air traffic control tower that no longer meets the airport’s needs. Significant improvements will also be made to Lake Elmo Airport, including paving a relocated Runway 14-32.

Our most fervent wish for 2022 is that we will all be able to move past the pandemic peaks that have beleaguered us the past two years and that everyone can confidently connect with friends, family, colleagues and clients across the globe.


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Rick King
Metropolitan Airports Commission