Spurred by a strong economy and service to new cities, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport served close to 40 million passengers in 2019 — a historic high for the airport.

Some 39.6 million passengers flew to or from MSP last year, a 4% increase over 2018, according to the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which owns and operates MSP. Last year was the third straight year of record passenger levels.

"A strong economy along with new routes and increased airline competition continues to propel demand for air travel," said MAC CEO Brian Ryks in a statement. "Hub carrier Delta Air Lines and its affiliates carried 4% more passengers at MSP in 2019 while Sun Country increased its passenger numbers by more than 22%, helping set the pace for a record year."

In 2019, 63% of travelers began their trips at MSP rather than using it as a connection point between flights, compared with 58% in 2018.

Ryks said the shift in passenger mix continues to put pressure on services such as curbside passenger pickup and drop-off, airline check-in and bag check services, security screening and baggage claim. The airport is in the middle of a $1.6 billion multiyear project to expand and renovate those facilities at Terminal 1 (Lindbergh).

"The rapid growth in local air travel demand highlights how critical that project is now and for the future," Ryks said.

The MAC said four airlines added a total of 15 new routes last year, including Dallas' Love Field for Southwest Airlines; Seoul, Mexico City, Charleston, S.C., and Sarasota, Fla., for Delta; and direct service to Dublin for Aer Lingus. Sun Country added service to Chicago's O'Hare airport; Nassau, Bahamas; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; Providence, R.I.; Sarasota, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; St. Louis and San Antonio.

Delta and its regional affiliates continue to dominate with about 71% market share, followed by Sun Country at 7.5%; American Airlines at 5.4%; Southwest at 4.8%, and United at 4.2%.

All told, airlines flew to 167 nonstop destinations from MSP, 136 of which were domestic and 31 international.

At the same time, the number of aircraft landings and takeoffs continued to decline as airlines added seats to planes and increased the size of planes serving the Twin Cities market last year. There were 406,675 aircraft operations in 2019, 0.2% fewer than in 2018. By comparison, there were 541,093 landings and takeoffs in 2004, the busiest year for MSP's airfield.

"There were nearly 25% fewer landings and takeoffs at MSP in 2019 than there were 15 years before," Ryks said.

Janet Moore • 612-673-7752 @ByJanetMoore