Some Minnesotans are flying out early this holiday week to avoid possible record-breaking crowds
If you’re boarding a plane to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving — you almost certainly won’t be alone.
Some Minnesotans are preparing for that holiday sojourn by leaving several days early.
“I think Wednesday, I would have lost my mind at the airport,” smiles Carina Kautzky, from Eagan. “So, I’m really happy to be getting here early.”
Kautzky, 21, and her family are getting a head start for a pre-Thanksgiving Day trip to Budapest — happy they’re flying out now, instead of later.
“Too many people, too tiring, too much stress,” says her father, Mike. “Yeah, the fun factor is pretty low, absolutely.”
The Kautzky’s aren’t alone.
MSP is expecting its busiest Thanksgiving holiday travel season in four years, with some peak times approaching 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
Airport officials say Wednesday will be the peak day for passengers flying out from MSP when 37,000 people are expected to go through security checkpoints there.
MSP Spokesperson Jeff Lea says the prime time for many departures will be early in the morning.
“The busiest time, no doubt is going to be the early morning hours at 5 to 8 a.m.,” he notes.
The TSA is expecting to screen about 30 million passengers nationwide between now and the Monday after Thanksgiving.
That’s a 9% jump from last year.
“The Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday that follows are the two busiest days, not only at MSP, but nationally,” Lea explains. “Our roadways are going to be more crowded; our passenger lobbies and baggage claim are going to be crowded, parking ramps are going to be crowded.”
The airport is hoping to reduce pick-up traffic headaches with the opening of a second cell phone waiting lot along Post Road.
The new lot, with about 100 spaces, is called the East Lot.
40 additional spaces are available in an older lot, just down the street, designated as the West Lot.
“If you don’t have passenger actually ready to land, then that means the driver has to circle endlessly around,” Lea says. “And that adds more vehicles on our roadways, causing more congestion and traffic jams.”
The news is making passenger picker-uppers happy.
“I love them, they’re great, I’ve been using them forever,” declares Ben Kuusisto, from Ham Lake.
Is it better than circling aimlessly for a pick-up spot?
“Yeah, aimlessly,” Kuusisto smiles. “I’m good at that, but I’d still rather do this.”
Airport officials say with this busy holiday travel week, it’s best to plan ahead — and leave early.
But for some passengers, that early start has other advantages.
“It was just a whole lot less expensive to be traveling before and come back during rather than the other way around,” says Kristen Wemm, from Minneapolis.
She and her husband Skyler flew out Saturday to Portland, Oregon, and are coming home Friday.
The couple is hoping to avoid the big crowds expected on Sunday.
“The last time was in Denver and the line to check-in wrapped around the center of the airport like four times,” Wemm recalls. “So, it was absolute chaos.”