Summer is typically the peak travel season at MSP, and this year is no exception.
The number of individuals being screened at MSP security checkpoints has regularly surpassed 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels and on occasion has eclipsed 70 percent. In all, 31 routes remain suspended, down from a high of 105 suspended routes in May 2020. Airlines are flying 1.6 million seats from MSP this month, compared to 947,000 last July and 2.1 million in July 2019. The trend is positive but it will likely be many months before we return to pre-pandemic levels.
Despite continuing restrictions on international travel, including mandatory quarantines in many countries, we have regained service to a number of destinations. In addition to Cancun and Calgary, Delta resumed Amsterdam service in February, followed by Mexico City and Reykjavik service in May and Paris service this month. Air France brought back Paris service and Icelandair Reykjavik service in June. Sun Country also provides service to Cancun.
We hope to see KLM restart Amsterdam service in late summer and for Delta and Air Canada to add service to several Canadian cities this fall. In addition we anticipate service to London, Seoul and Tokyo later in the fall. Aer Lingus has indicated it will not restart Dublin service this year, and Condor has conveyed its plan to resume Frankfurt service in 2021. That said, we know even the best laid plans can be sidelined should virulent new COVID-19 variants arise or existing variants regain a strong foothold among under-vaccinated populations.
On the domestic front MSP has gained 25 seasonal or year-round routes from five airlines in 2021. In addition, Allegiant Air last month announced it will become the 18th airline to serve MSP when it begins year-round service to Asheville, North Carolina and Punta Gorda, Florida and seasonal service to Palm Beach, Florida in October. Sun Country has also announced service to those locations.
Apart from air service, I am happy to report that the Valet garage at Terminal 1 will reopen August 1. The facility was recently renovated for added safety, efficiency and convenience as well as for visual appeal and comfort befitting a premium parking experience. Overall, parking at MSP – a major source of revenue for the airport -- is generating about 60 percent of pre-pandemic income.
The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) continues its close partnership with the state to combat spread of COVID-19. The COVID-19 PCR saliva testing site that opened in November in a facility between the blue and red parking ramps continues to serve the general public as well as travelers. In July, the state opened two coronavirus vaccination sites, post-security in Terminal 1 and pre-security in Terminal 2. In addition, the MAC has partnered with private vendor Wandertest to offer rapid testing, including Antigen, NAAT and PCR testing in a facility adjoining Level 3 of the Gold parking ramp at Terminal 1.
While state and federal regulations no longer require masks for vaccinated individuals in most places, the Centers for Disease Control and the federal Transportation Security Administration continue to require masks be worn at airports and on public conveyances, including aircraft. The federal mask requirement is currently scheduled to expire September 13.
Following the recent end of Minnesota’s peacetime emergency to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest health and safety guidance regarding gatherings, I am happy to report the MAC board is now in a position to safely resume in-person public meetings for the first time in 15 months. We held our first in-person meeting July 19, and it was great to be able to see all the participants in person. During those months that circumstances required us to meet virtually, the MAC remained engaged and transparent with our stakeholders and the public, meeting remotely through teleconferencing technology that enabled the public to participate fully in the meetings. Even so, we’re thankful we can now conduct business again face to face. Just remember to wear a mask if you plan to attend a Commission meeting because they are held inside Terminal 1. The return to on-site meetings also means that you can watch a live stream of the proceedings or view a videotape of the meeting when it’s over. For more information, checkout the MAC’s website.
Speaking of the MAC board, commissioners last fall passed a minimum wage ordinance for MSP, providing phased increases for airport employees. On July 1, the minimum wage increased to $14.25 per hour. That amount will rise to $15 an hour on July 1, 2022. Beginning January 1, 2023 and every January 1 thereafter, wages will be adjusted for inflation. The increased pay will not only improve the lives of workers and their families but also help companies doing business at MSP compete for top-notch employees.
The large, diverse, customer-focused workforce at MSP is one of the primary reasons our airport was named Best Airport in North America in its size category four years in a row. Airports are an essential service, and when the pandemic hit, workers continued to come to MSP every day to keep operations moving safely and smoothly for those who needed to travel. The MSP minimum wage ordinance recognizes the importance of MSP’s labor force to the airport’s success and hopefully will help establish airport businesses as employers of choice for many area workers.
Finally today, I want to give a shoutout to the MAC’s six reliever airports in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. In June, there were more than 34,000 total operations across the MAC reliever system, a 21 percent increase over June 2020. All six airports saw an increase in operations compared to June 2020. Saint Paul Downtown Airport showed the biggest gains, up 63 percent, an important sign that demand for business travel is strengthening. June aircraft operation numbers were also particularly strong at Flying Cloud and Anoka County-Blaine airports, both of which surpassed not only 2020 but also 2019 activity levels for the month.
The July 11 Lakeville Lions Fly-in Breakfast, part of Lakeville’s annual community celebration, was a tremendous success. The attendance was amazing, perhaps even record breaking. I want to thank the MAC operations team for working with the Lions and helping out with the event.
I am also pleased to say that, after a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, AirExpo is back. The 2021 Wings of the North AirExpo is taking place at Flying Cloud Airport Saturday and Sunday, July 24 and 25. MAC staff will be among the exhibitors, showcasing a static airport equipment display, giveaways and activities that include Paint the Plow, an opportunity for children to help paint a mural on the blade of one of the MAC’s hardworking snow plows. The event is always a lot of fun, and I encourage you to attend if you are able.
It’s great to see the community and our airports buzzing with activity once again. If you haven’t flown lately, I hope you can do so soon. Even after all these years it’s still an amazing experience to board a plane in one city or country and exit some place completely different.
Metropolitan Airports Commission