More travelers than ever passed through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last year despite a slight drop in the number of passengers who paid for tickets.
Overall, a record-setting 38,037,381 passengers boarded, arrived or caught a connecting flight at the airport in 2018. That was up about 3,000 from 2017 and marked the 10th straight year that passenger volume has grown, according to airport spokesman Patrick Hogan.
“Year-end numbers demonstrated continuing strong demand for air travel at MSP,” Hogan said.
The airport also set a record in 2018 for the most passengers screened at TSA checkpoints in one day. More than 60,800 were screened Feb. 5, the day after Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The overall rise in passengers in 2018 was helped by more airline employees using their benefits to fly free. The number of passengers who paid for airfare was down by about 21,400 from 2017.
Uncertainty about impacts of trade wars factored into the decline, especially at the end of the year, Hogan said.
“Air travel demand often mirrors the economy,” he said, “so those concerns no doubt played a role in the somewhat disappointing fourth quarter.”
Delta Air Lines continues to be main carrier at the airport, serving 19.7 million paying passengers in 2018. Sun Country had the second-highest number, with 2.34 million passengers. Those carriers were followed by Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United.
Last year, Jet Blue began flying between MSP and Boston. This year, Delta plans to add routes to Mexico City and Seoul. Sun Country is adding eight new destinations from MSP, and Aer Lingus will begin service to Dublin.
“The growing strength of the local market bodes well for the future as we continue to pursue additional airlines and routes,” Hogan said.