I am writing to update you on impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).
First, though, I want to express my hope that you and your family remain healthy during these challenging times.
In addition to its human toll, the pandemic has threatened the financial wellbeing of a wide spectrum of industries, businesses and families. The travel and hospitality industries are among the hardest hit, with would-be travelers wisely staying close to home when possible.
Even so, airlines, airports and related businesses continue to serve an essential role that is as important as ever given the need to move health care personnel and equipment to the places they are needed. I very much appreciate the thousands of people who continue to work remotely or on our airport campuses to ensure access to necessary travel continues.
It is clear from MSP’s empty parking ramps, roadways, ticketing lobbies and concourses that people who don’t need to travel are heeding the call to stay home:
- In recent weeks airlines have suspended 94 routes at MSP, and a number of airlines either have temporarily stopped or plan to temporarily stop service at MSP entirely, including Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air France, Condor, JetBlue, KLM and Spirit.
- The number of passengers being screened at MSP security checkpoints is down 95 percent from this time a year ago. Consequently, three Terminal 1 checkpoints and one Terminal 2 checkpoint have been closed until demand recovers.
- Passengers are only using about 2 percent of MSP’s parking capacity, leading to the closure of the Blue, Red, Quick Ride and Valet garages at Terminal 1 and the Purple garage at Terminal 2.
- Only 21 of MSP’s 75 food and beverage establishments and 9 of its 52 retail and convenience stores remain open, and those that are open operate reduced hours due to the greatly reduced demand.
Since we fund our airport operations through rents and fees generated by airport users, these are very challenging times financially for the MAC. It is also a very difficult time for the many businesses operating at MSP, particularly for airlines and their contractors and vendors as well as for food, retail and service concessionaires – and for the thousands of employees working for these companies.
The MAC has scrutinized its budget, deferred non-essential expenditures and applied cost-saving measures where possible. At the same time, we have been exploring short-term relief opportunities for our key partners such as airlines, concessionaires and auto rental companies, through temporarily deferring or waiving some rents and fees. Relief options are limited, though, due to federal restrictions on use of airport revenues and the fact that the MAC is facing such significant financial challenges itself.
To that point, we are extremely grateful to Minnesota’s U.S. Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, and to the state’s Congressional delegation for their leadership and support in passing the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In addition to providing more than $50 billion in relief for the nation’s airlines, the act includes $10 billion in relief to U.S. airports.
While we don’t know the specific share of aid the MAC will receive, we anticipate it will exceed $120 million. Those airport funds can be used for a variety of purposes, including debt payment and cash flow. That will help tremendously in the short term, and we are extremely grateful for that assistance. Still, with all our major revenue sources only generating a small percentage of budgeted revenues, long term it won’t be enough. We continue to communicate with our industry trade organizations and work with our Congressional leaders to discuss additional assistance airports will need moving forward.
We also appreciate the tremendous support we have received from the Twin Cities-area community. MSP typically generates nearly $16 billion annually for the area economy, and people and businesses understand how important it will be to recover suspended air service and travel demand when the threat from COVID-19 eases.
With that in mind certain key infrastructure improvements such as expansion and modernization of the Terminal 1 ticketing and bag claim facilities will continue. We are mid-way through that six-year project. By moving forward with that construction now, when comparatively few people are occupying those spaces, we are also able to reduce construction impacts to travelers later, when large numbers of eager travelers return, as well as preserving construction jobs. We want to make sure the airport is ready for a resurgence in demand when we are all able to move past the COVID crisis in the United States and around the world.
In the meantime, keep well and stay safe. We’ll get through this together.
Executive Director & CEO
Metropolitan Airports Commission