The head of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has requested a meeting with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials after learning that a hotel checkpoint is slated to close in November.
Brian Ryks, executive director and CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), said the impending closure of the InterContinental Hotel checkpoint on Nov. 18 is “deeply concerning.” Ryks addressed the letter to TSA’s Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell, requesting a meeting with TSA about the hotel checkpoint as well as “broader concerns regarding TSA staffing” at MSP.
The letter comes after long lines at security checkpoints in Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) have generated headlines and frustrated travelers, many of whom vented on social media.
The lines this fall were largely due to a construction project at the south security checkpoint in the main terminal, part of a $1.6 billion overhaul at the airport. The construction has since been completed, and both the north and south checkpoints have returned to their normal configurations.
TSA and airport officials have touted the hotel checkpoint as a way to avoid long lines in the main terminal. The checkpoint, which is open from 5:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily for travelers with only carry-on bags, is located on a $24 million skyway that is the only direct link between the hotel and Terminal 1. It was closed from December 2018 to April.
TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said the hotel checkpoint “consistently has significantly lower passenger volume than the other, larger checkpoints” at Terminal 1.
Dankers said that on Tuesday, 37 passengers were screened through the hotel checkpoint. In comparison, on an average day, some 36,800 passengers are screened at MSP’s two terminals.
“TSA will deploy its staffing resources to maximize the efficiency of screening operations to ensure full staffing at the busiest checkpoints at MSP,” Dankers said in an e-mail. As of Wednesday, TSA employed 658 full- and part-time staff at MSP.
The hotel, which opened in 2018, is the first to be connected to the airport since it was built nearly a century ago. Jim Graves, chairman of Graves Hospitality, which owns and operates the InterContinental, said Wednesday he’s optimistic “we’ll come up with a solution. All parties want it to happen.”
In his letter, Ryks also expressed concern about Checkpoint 10 on the skyway at the main terminal. That checkpoint is staffed from 5:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., but it was closed for several months earlier this year.
In addition, one of Terminal 2’s checkpoints remains closed, “and the one that is operating at times experiences long lines extending outside the terminal, across a skyway” to a parking ramp, he wrote.
Ryks’ concerns were echoed by U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, both Democrats, who also wrote to Cogswell this week.
“We share [Ryks’] concerns regarding inadequate staffing levels at the airport and urge TSA to maintain staff at the checkpoint connecting the hotel,” the senators wrote. “We also urge you to meet with the [MAC] to discuss the negative impact that closing this checkpoint would have on the airport’s operations, including by increasing wait times for passengers.”