Some unhappy meals at MSP

  • Article by: WENDY LEE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 31, 2012 - 3:11 PM

A number of fliers say they are disappointed that McDonald's is no longer at the airport's Concourse G.

The removal of McDonald's from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is not flying with some passengers who want their Egg McMuffins and Big Macs.

For Hod Irvine, a local business executive and frequent flier, no more McDonald's means no more picking up his favorite french fries as he's leaving town.

"It's just not there. It's not anywhere [in the airport]," he said.

The two McDonald's outlets were shut down at Concourse G last month after Delta Air Lines decided not to renew the company's lease. In their place are trendy new eateries like Custom Burgers and Tagliare, which serves Sicilian pizza.

The moves are part of an effort by Delta and its new concession partner to bring a more polished dining experience to the airport, said Delta spokeswoman Leslie Parker. McDonald's simply doesn't fit the new vision for Concourse G, which the airline controls, she explained.

"We think there is something for everyone in our dining program at Concourse G," said Parker, noting the presence of other fast-food chains such as Quiznos, Arby's and Burger King elsewhere at the airport.

Nevertheless, airport officials say they are scrambling to find a new home for McDonald's. The airport has offered the company locations outside of Concourse G, but none were acceptable to McDonald's. The two sides hope to reach an agreement soon.

"We will continue to try and do what we can to make our restaurant available to those people using the Minneapolis airport," said Danya Proud, a McDonald's spokeswoman.

This isn't the first time McDonald's has struggled to find its place in a major airport. The San Diego International Airport, for instance, plans to remove McDonald's after it was not included in plans that aim to bring on more local brands. The San Jose, Calif., international airport got rid of its McDonald's three years ago when it switched to a healthier, local fare.

Some of the format changes also are a result of 9/11, which forced travelers to get to the airport earlier, giving them more time to sit and eat, said Ramon Lo of Florida-based Airport Revenue News. "The palate is changing," Lo said. "A lot of people are more experimental and exploring more."

Delta and its concession partner, OTG Management, acknowledge that fliers may miss McDonald's initially, but they think they can win them over with the new tastes on Concourse G, which range from New York strip steak to bison tartare. Travelers also can find local favorites, like the iconic Jucy Lucy burger based on Matt's Bar in south Minneapolis.

"Just because everything you see here was handmade for you, doesn't mean that it's expensive or overpriced," said Michael Coury, OTG's concept chef.

Delta has a 10-year agreement with OTG, so there's plenty of time for fliers to embrace the new menus, said Mary Loeffelholz, Delta's director of design and construction. "People are going to soon forget that there is not a McDonald's on the concourse."

Despite the setback at MSP, the Golden Arches can be found in numerous airports across the country. Among the nation's top 10 busiest airports, only three cities, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Charlotte, N.C., don't have a McDonald's. Phoenix, however, is planning to get one by November.

That's good news to Kate Mich of Minneapolis, who recently flew to Phoenix. She felt she was paying more for less at MSP. She paid $2 for a cup of gourmet coffee, but said she could have gotten a larger size from McDonald's for a dollar.

"I am really mystified," the Minneapolis resident said. "You can always count on [McDonald's] to meet your expectations."

Robert Thibodeaux shared Mich's sentiment.

"The consistency in business travel is a really big thing," said Thibodeaux, 43, a Delta frequent flier who likes to start his day with McDonald's egg and sausage meal. "I can't afford to not be fed or have something that doesn't sit well."

And a missing Golden Arches is huge deal for families looking for cheap Happy Meals to feed their kids, said Alice Roe, who was at the airport earlier this month.

"We're on our way to Orlando to Disney World with our 4-year-old grandson, and there's no McDonald's," Roe said. "Not a good idea, Minneapolis."

Wendy Lee • 612-673-1712

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