More travelers expected this Memorial Day weekend

More travelers expected this Memorial Day weekend

More travelers expected this Memorial Day weekend

Heading out of town for Memorial Day weekend? If so, you’re not alone.

National and local officials are planning for more travelers this weekend than in past years.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport expects to see at least a 10% increase in air travel this Memorial Day weekend compared to last year.

“Thursday and Friday will be the busiest days of the holiday weekend,” said Jeff Lea, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

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About 35,000 passengers are expected to go through security checkpoints on both Thursday and Friday at MSP, which is not quite as busy as spring break when the airport saw about 40,000 travelers on peak days.

Nationwide, AAA predicts airports will see their busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2005.

AAA projects 42.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles for their Memorial Day weekend plans, which would be an increase of around 7% or 2.7 million people compared to last year. Nearly 3.4 million of those people are expected to fly to their destinations, up 11% from 2022.

MSP says airlines will operate 224 routes from the airport by July, which will be an all-time high for MSP.

“There are estimates that this will be the busiest summer in many years,” Lea said. “I think the biggest trend at MSP and other airports is airlines are reducing their use of regional jets, those 50- to 70-seat aircraft, for larger mainline aircraft. So it means there will be more available seats to meet passenger demand.”

MSP is also partnering with CLEAR, the secure identity company, to try something new at Terminal 2.

A pilot program called MSP Reserve will allow passengers to reserve a timeslot at the TSA checkpoint, allowing them to skip the line at security during the peak morning travel hours from 3:45-8 a.m. at Terminal 2.

It is free, with time slots available for booking up to a week in advance.

“The service enhances the travel experience by giving passengers more certainty at one of the busiest congestion points in the airport journey,” said Scott Skramstad, the Metropolitan Airports Commission’s director of terminal and landside operations. “Reserving a time to transit through the security checkpoint is simple and free, and we expect it will streamline and expedite the screening process for passengers.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation is also working with the airlines in the hopes of avoiding the travel chaos from last summer, when airports nationwide saw mass cancellations and delays.

“This weekend will be a test of the system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg during a news conference earlier this week.

Buttigieg said the Department of Transportation has been able to hire more air traffic controllers to address an ongoing shortage, although they are still down from “optimal numbers.”

He noted his department is also pressing airlines to be more realistic with scheduling.

“We have seen airlines deliver considerable improvements in on-time performance in the past few months,” Buttigieg said.

In the last few months, he said cancellations have impacted less than 2% of flights, according to airline data.

“Cancellation and delay rates were at unacceptable proportions last year and it’s important that not happen again,” Buttigieg said.

At MSP, Lea added, “From a staffing level and scheduling level, everyone’s sort of gearing up for a busier summer to make sure they have fewer challenges this summer.”

More information, including parking availability and flight changes, can be found online.