Jump in travelers complicates security hassles at MSP

MINNEAPOLIS — The Transportation Security Administration has stepped up staffing at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to help cut wait times for security screening. But there's another source of congestion for air travelers in Minnesota: The airport is serving ever bigger crowds.

Strong 4 percent annual traffic growth last year continued in January. Given the jump and the projected passenger traffic in coming months, officials think the airport is on track to break its all-time passenger record, set more than a decade ago. Metropolitan Airports Commission officials say the numbers are rising faster than expected.

The all-time record for passengers at MSP — coming, going and laying over — was set in 2005 at 37.6 million. The Great Recession drove those figures down nearly 14 percent to 32.3 million in 2009.

Passenger counts have been creeping back up since then but took a big step forward last year.

While airline travel is highly susceptible to the vagaries of the overall economy, a repeat of last's year's rapid growth could bring 38 million passengers to MSP for the first time ever. Forecasts indicate that's within the realm of possibility.


The number of destinations out of the airport is expanding as well. Among the new routes, Delta has added non-stop service to Rome.

"This is turning out to be our greatest quarter, at least that I could find researching back in the data, where we've introduced new routes," said Brian Peters, the airport's air services development manager. "It's about 15-16 depending on how you count it. But it's turning out to be a remarkable quarter and it'll be interesting to see if that can be matched."

Added traffic at the airport can be a mixed bag. MAC chair Dan Boivin noted that while the increase may signal a pickup in business and the economy, it may also mean more noise over nearby neighborhoods and create demand for more spending on facilities, including parking.

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