Officials say the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport stands ready to accommodate an expected surge of travelers during the busy MEA weekend, which begins on Wednesday for many families across Minnesota.
The long weekend, due to Minnesota Educator Academy (MEA) teacher meetings in St. Paul this week, is unique to Minnesota.
“Most states don’t have such a conference when schools let out so many days in a row,” said Patrick Hogan, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). “Every year it tends to be very popular.”
MAC officials expect a 3% increase over last year in the number of passengers traveling to, from and through the airport for this year’s MEA break.
With that in mind, the airports commission decided to open both security checkpoints Oct. 8 to all passengers using the main terminal, including those with TSA PreCheck and Clear. The MAC had reconfigured the checkpoints in Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) in August, due to a construction project that is part of an ongoing $1.6 billion overhaul. But the change resulted in confusion among many passengers, long lines and an occasional missed flight during peak travel periods.
Since last week, “everything has gone very smoothly” at the main terminal’s checkpoints, Hogan said. “Peak wait times [for screening] have been 30 to 40 minutes at the highest, but there’s a lot more balance now between the two lines in the ticket lobby.”
Terminal 2, also known as the Humphrey terminal, has not been affected by the security line brouhaha.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) predicts a 4% increase over last year in the number of people being screened at MSP. “MEA is traditionally one of the busier times of year for travel at the airport,” said TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers.
TSA expects to screen about 42,200 travelers on Wednesday, 41,500 on Thursday, and 35,700 on Friday. By comparison, the average number of passengers screened daily this year is 36,800.
The peak screening periods are driven by airline flight departure times. Dankers said checkpoints at MSP’s two terminals will be “extremely busy” from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon. Then, there will likely be a midafternoon rush between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., and “a little bit of a rush between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.,” she said.
A similar pattern is expected for Thursday, Dankers said.
The MAC’s Hogan said the MEA weekend increase in traveling families is “one of the reasons why it’s so busy, because we also see business travelers, who may not be traveling on Thanksgiving and other holidays.”
TSA Checkpoint 10 between the Red and Blue parking ramps is also now open; it had been closed due to TSA staffing issues. Travelers who are not checking luggage may use the checkpoint, located on the skyway between Concourses C and G, between 5:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Monday through Friday. Passengers with only carry-on luggage may also clear security at the Terminal 1 skyway checkpoint at the InterContinental Hotel from 5:15 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily.
TSA said it will be fully staffed at both airport terminals this weekend, using overtime to extend officers’ shifts. Explosive-detecting dogs will be deployed as well.
Once travelers have cleared security, there are new dining options in Terminal 1. They include Leeann Chin, near the entrance to Concourses C and D; Joe & the Juice, near Gate C1; and the Cook & the Ox, on the north side of the airport mall, near the entrance to Concourse C.
Those looking for fast food can find it at new two new food courts — at Concourse F, with Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, Peoples Organic and Wendy’s; and Concourse C, featuring Chick-fil-A, Smashburger and Starbucks.