WASHINGTON – Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport officials have two pieces of news to members of Congress this week: We expect security lines to worsen this summer and we’d love a passenger fee increase.
Airport officials, attending a national conference this week, say they have worked doggedly with the Transportation Security Administration to lessen wait times at security lines at the Minneapolis airport.
There is a new bomb-sniffing dog team and another one set to arrive in a couple of weeks. There is some hiring going on, too, for additional security screeners.
Even so, there are some unnerving realities: MSP has seen more than 2 million more passengers over the past several years and fewer workers to scan carry-on bags.
“I’m scared for the summer,” said Dan Boivin, chairman of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), in an interview on Capitol Hill Wednesday. Summer is high season for travel to and from Minnesota. “It’s all depending on TSA, how much overtime they can allocate to us … It’s not a pretty picture.”
MSP CEO Jeff Hamiel agreed.
“The reality is, we have 2.5 million more passengers and 9 percent fewer screeners,” he said. “It’s a bad combination.”
In the past three years, MSP has lost 60 screeners, and traffic is up nearly 15 percent since 2011. The airport had more than 35 million travelers in 2015.
Hamiel and Boivin also talked about the need to increase the $4.50 passenger fee all travelers pay who leave MSP.
It hasn’t been raised since 2000 and they want to increase it to pay for infrastructure, ramps for parking lots and to expand the Humphrey terminal.
They have to go out and borrow the money now to do these types of improvements, but they’d rather pay for it through passenger fees.
The airlines strongly oppose any fee increase. Congress has to approve any increase to the current $4.50.