MSP gears up for year’s final holiday rush

MSP gears up for holiday rush

MSP gears up for holiday rush

With Christmas and New Year’s quickly approaching, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is preparing for travel to heat up again.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which operates MSP, says the airport has seen higher travel volumes this year than the past couple, including a post-pandemic daily record of nearly 50,000 people clearing security checkpoints on Oct. 19 and a 10% bump in traffic during the Thanksgiving travel period compared to last year.

Entering the final weeks of 2023, MSP’s passenger activity is hovering around 90% of its 2019 levels — the year it served an all-time record 39.5 million passengers.

Nationally, 49,000 planes will be in the air across the country on Thursday, with roughly 2.5 million passengers expected to be screened daily between Thursday and Christmas.

Officials are projecting this Thursday and Friday, Dec. 21 and 22, to be the busiest travel days at MSP before Christmas, with more than 36,000 people expected to clear security checkpoints on Friday. The MAC says it’s expecting the airport to see a similar bump in the days leading up to New Year’s Day.

“We’re projecting some peak days of heavy passenger activity through the upcoming holidays as we close out a strong year in travel and head into 2024,” said Brian Ryks, the MAC’s CEO. “We continuously collaborate with the (Transportation Security Administration) and our airlines to align staffing, especially during these high-travel periods, to help minimize wait times and offer more assistance to travelers through the check-in and security processes.”

With more travelers expected over the next couple of weeks, MSP is urging passengers to arrive two hours before their domestic flights are scheduled to depart and three hours early for international flights.

Travelers 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with on Thursday morning say they prepared for worse than what they found at the airport during the early morning hours.

“I was expecting really long lines, and we actually checked out bags out on the curbside, so we’re good to go,” said Margaret Van Essen, who is traveling to Ohio.

Maryam and Shafik Kassam are traveling to Canada, and say they were also expecting worse conditions at the airport.

“I was a little bit worried about it, but the flight that we booked was earlier… so I felt good about it. And when I got here, I think it’s fine,” said Shafik.

“So excited, we’re going for a wedding. It’s going to be super fun over Christmas,” said Maryam.

For anyone parking at MSP, officials recommend pre-booking a spot due to the expected high demand. That higher demand is also expected to lead to more congestion at pick-up areas, and MSP is urging drivers to use its cellphone lots to wait until their passengers are at the curb and ready to be picked up.

Travelers can review TSA screening tips here. MSP also says it will have special performances for travelers in the coming days.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on weather conditions across the country. California, as well as several parts of the Northeast, are dealing with severe weather that travel experts say could trickle down and cause delays across the board. CLICK HERE for the latest forecast from Minnesota’s Weather Authority.

Last year at this time, bad weather conditions caused issues for many travelers in Minnesota and other states.

Southwest Airlines was recently hit with a record fine for the issues they had in 2022, and the airline is now required to give $75 vouchers to passengers.

RELATED: Southwest Airlines reaches $140 million settlement over holiday flight-canceling meltdown last year