Stronger Year-End Holiday Travel Push Ahead for MSP Airport

Stronger Year-End Holiday Travel Push Ahead for MSP Airport

December 21, 2021

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is expecting a strong end-of-the-year Christmas and New Year’s Day holiday travel period, with some peak days that will more than double the number of passengers clearing security checkpoints compared to last year.

National forecasts predict millions more Americans will be flying this holiday travel period than a year ago, when U.S. air travel for December was still down 60% due to the first-year impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At MSP, booking forecasts indicate the busiest day for the upcoming holiday travel stretch will be Sunday, Dec. 26, with approximately 35,000 passengers clearing TSA checkpoints, and Monday, Dec. 27, will be a close second. That compares to more than 21,000 passengers on those same days in 2020 but is still below daily pre-pandemic peaks as high as 46,000 daily passengers.

The busiest day before Christmas this year will be Thursday, Dec. 23 with more than 31,700 passengers clearing checkpoints. That compares to 14,721 passengers who cleared TSA checkpoints on the same day in 2020. MSP should see similar increases in connecting travelers, who clear security at other facilities before traveling through MSP.

MSP’s holiday passenger projections are in line with MSP’s monthly enplanements trend. The most recent data available showed a 75% recovery in enplanements in October 2021 compared to 2019.

“We’re expecting a very positive push in travel demand as we end 2021,” said Brian Ryks, CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which operates MSP. “There will be extremely busy periods over the next two weeks in our terminals and on our roadways, so we encourage travelers to take steps in advance to be prepared.”

Federal air travel regulations are still in effect, requiring all individuals entering MSP terminals or boarding an aircraft to wear a face covering. The health and safety of travelers, visitors and airport employees remains the focus of the airport’s Travel Confidently MSP program, which includes robust cleaning throughout the airport, access to contactless hand sanitizer dispensers and more than 200 protective barriers at major passenger interaction points.

Other MSP travel tips and recommendations for holiday travelers include:

  • Arrive in time — Generally, travelers should arrive at the airport at least two hours in advance of a domestic departure or three hours prior to an international departure. Passengers should confirm specific airport arrival time with their airlines.
  • Check Traffic —Get the latest road reports around MSP using MnDOT 511 for latest on traffic incidents and road conditions. 
  • Go Up or Go Down —Motorists can use both Terminal 1 roadways for picking up or dropping off passengers. The upper-level departures roadway can also be used to pick up passengers and the lower-level arrivals roadway can also be used to drop off passengers. This can save time for passengers by avoiding high volumes of traffic on MSP roadways and in front of the terminals.
  • Use Cell Phone Lot —Don’t arrive too early when picking up passengers. Use MSP’s free cell phone lot—instead of circling the roadway—to wait until your party is ready to be picked up outside of MSP terminals.
  • Order Online — Passengers can also use their mobile devices to order food and drinks from 15 venues for pickup or delivery at their gate in Terminal 1. No app is needed. Order through the dining and shopping link at
  • Vaccinations Available —Minnesota is operating two public COVID-19 vaccination sites at MSP (post-security in Terminal 1 and pre-security in Terminal 2). Appointments can be made through

MSP airlines are operating 200 routes ahead of Christmas, a pandemic era milestone. Several new winter vacation destinations were recently added, such as Jackson Hole, West Palm Beach, Palm Springs, Belize, St. Thomas, and Aruba. Average daily departures for December are 376, compared to 317 in Dec. 2020.