Employers at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are looking to hire some 700 people this summer as pandemic-weary travelers are expected to take to the skies in a big way.
Officials at MSP are predicting this summer will be the busiest since 2019 — before COVID-19 decimated air travel.
To prepare for the anticipated throng, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) held a job fair at Terminal 1 on Wednesday to lure potential applicants for jobs at airlines, air support firms, security operations, food, beverage and hospitality services and retail shops.
The airport partnered with more than 32 employers, including Delta Air Lines, Sun Country Airlines, FedEx, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Customs and Border Control, Caribou Coffee and others, for the event.
"We are so busy all the time. We need people," said Stacy Wilkens, director of human resources for the InterContinental Minneapolis-St. Paul hotel, which is connected to Terminal 1. While more travelers are expected this summer, Wilkens said the hotel has seen an uptick in weddings and corporate events as well.
According to MAC spokesman Jeff Lea, 89% of the airport's venues have reopened at least part time — including 92% of the retail shops in both terminals and 87% of MSP's restaurants and food and beverage outlets.
The recovery rate for airport concessions is about 75%, Lea said, meaning that more venues are open but many are still operating at reduced hours.
Attracting employees to work at the airport "will allow more stores and restaurants to more easily reopen or expand their hours to meet customer demand anticipated for the upcoming summer travel season," Lea said in an e-mail. He noted there are job openings with TSA, U.S. Customs and aviation support services that bolster airport operations, as well.
"I saw an ad on Facebook about this, so I decided to come out," said Paige Van Pelt, a stay-at-home mom from Edina who is interested in working for an airline. "It helps that they have all their people here in one place."
San Francisco-based airline and travel analyst Henry Harteveldt said the labor shortage is one of the biggest potential constraints on travel this summer.
"The Memorial Day holiday weekend, which traditionally marks the start of the U.S. summer travel season, is now just under three weeks away," Harteveldt said. "For airlines, the next few weeks are 'do-or-die' weeks — either they have enough people wrapping up training ahead of summer, or they don't."
Airlines, including MSP's dominant carrier Delta, are hiring at almost every level, including airport workers, reservation agents, pilots and flight attendants, he said.
Openings at MSP accommodate all skill levels and feature full- and part-time positions and seasonal jobs, with morning, evening and overnight shifts. Most employers pay more than the $14.25 minimum wage — which increases to $15 on July 1 — and some offer hiring and retention bonuses.
Jeff Garver, director of operations for St. Louis Park-based Aero Service Group, said he expects passenger counts to be "at or above 2019 levels this summer."
Aero, which operates Stone Arch and Lake Wine Kitchen + Bar at Terminal 1 and Cocina del Barrio at Terminal 2, participated in the job fair in search of nine cooks and two managers for its popular eateries. (Once Lake Wine reopens later this year following a "refresh" of its restaurant, the firm will be hiring an additional 30 employees.)
Harteveldt noted competition for good employees is tough, and working at an airport poses some challenges. Airport jobs can require job applicants to clear unique hurdles, including background security checks and drug tests, before they can start training and then start work, he said. Plus, some employees must clear security to get to work daily.
At least one job applicant Wednesday said MSP's easy access to Blue and Green line light-rail service is a real perk for the airport. (Both terminals have LRT stations.)
Aero's Garver says MSP is a "great place to work. The airport provides a safe work environment that is busy all the time and you get to meet fun people from all over the world."