Spring break travel will soon heat up Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs the airport, expects March to be the busiest month there since the pandemic emptied concourses a year ago.
Based on booking forecasts, MSP could see some days with more than 28,000 passengers this month. That exceeds the busiest day of the holiday season, when 22,000 passengers moved through checkpoints one day in late December. That was the most passengers in a day since the start of the pandemic, and spring break will bust that record several times.
If you're one of the 28,000, here's what you can expect at MSP, including a few tips for navigating the rush.
Plan your parking: The MSP website allows travelers to pre-book parking in the Terminal 1 or 2 ramps.
Early reservations will lock in the certainty of a parking spot, save $2 per day for those who book at least 24 hours ahead, and ensure a contactless transaction. Users can enter and exit the ramps using a QR code from their online confirmation.
There's an extra perk for spring break travelers: Through March 26, people who pre-book Terminal 1 daily parking will save $7 a day.
Standard day rates are $26 at Terminal 1 and $19 at Terminal 2. Pre-book at onlineparking.mspairport.com.
The economical Quick Ride Ramp, which was designed to handle overflow parking and required taking a shuttle to the terminal, has been closed during the pandemic.
Arrive early: Expecting a busy airport, the MAC suggests travelers arrive at least two hours before a domestic flight and 2½ hours before an international flight. This is especially important at peak hours: early and midmorning and midafternoon.
Once there, stretch out: More people will be pouring into the airport just as space there has opened up.
Work to bump out the front of the Terminal 1 building by 15 feet is a key feature of an ongoing long-term expansion plan at MSP. That work is now complete, resulting in larger ticketing and baggage claim areas.
A major construction wall that fliers once had to squeeze past in ticketing has come down.
Escalators, elevators and stairs now run along the east side of the building, closest to the curb, and connect all levels, from the mezzanine to ticketing, baggage claim and tram.
In baggage claim, four new carousels have been installed.
In anticipation of an uptick in fliers, Delta will open its east curb check-in counters March 10. They will be open daily between 6 a.m. and noon. The airline's tram-level ticketing counters will also be open at various times.
Get goods contact-free: Of 135 concessions at the airport, 75 are open, and there is a new way to order food from some of those places in Terminal 1.
The MAC has introduced a contactless online order portal at asap.mspairport.com. Passengers can order food for pickup or delivery from favorites like Dunkin' Donuts and Hi-Lo Diner. The site is web-based and doesn't require downloading an app. Additionally, many airport restaurants use QR codes for their menus, and many concessions accept mobile pay services for contactless transactions.
People can use the Grab or At Your Gate apps to get food, contact-free.
Wear one, or else: Masks are required on airport grounds, including parking ramps, trams and inside taxis and ride-sharing vehicles. Since Feb. 2, federal law has bolstered the requirement already in place at the airport. Transportation Security Administration agents can now deny entry to the screening area and impose civil fines, from $250 for first offenders to $1,500 or higher, on people who refuse to comply.
The airport has also upped its cleaning and added social distancing and seat-blocking signs and hundreds of hand-sanitizer stations to help travelers get to their destinations, healthy and ready for fun in the sun.
Kerri Westenberg • 612-673-4282