MSP International Airport: Planning is Stuck Again

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic-- and the Federal disbursements to maintain essential air travel and stimulate the US economy in response --are complex and ever-changing. MSP International Airport (MSP) provides a window into the national air-travel situation,but too little to base a forecast about economic recovery on at this time.
A few years ago, the Airports Commission commissioned a "study of the economic and jobs impacts of MSP operations." At the time, there were 27,000 jobs on-site. Jobs included flight crews stationed in the Twin Cities and airline personnel working at MSP. The total jobs from air travel, off-and on-site jobs was estimated as 86,000. Residency, spending locally and paying State and property taxes for that 86,000 was not known, but assumed.
Today, passenger capacity is about 1.2 million departing) seats/year compared to 8.5 million in 2019. See Note below. About half the concessionaires have closed and the other have reduced hours. Operations remain somewhat concentrated in a few busier hours. 
There is some unknown variation in Federal jobs --and airline jobs --at MSP now because of reduced schedules; and, frequent policy changes in both cases about international travel restrictions.
Our point is: No one, particularly airlines, can forecast reliably before April 2021, best case. The Federal government needs an air-travel-recovery plan based on routes allowed and supported. With demand <40% of 2019 levels, tweaking runway-use rates and adding storage at MSP doesn't make much sense.

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  • Smaac Forum Panel
    commented 2020-07-09 11:47:31 -0500
    Note: Annual use of an airport is “throughput” or boardings + departures. At MSP and other hubs that means of accounting obscures the exact local (Origin and Destination) passenger use. The airport sponsors admit that that delayed airline reporting and seasonal schedule adjustments are confusing and known at best to +/- 10 percent. At MSP, planning capacity to favor facilities and hours serving Minnesota economic growth was set in the 1996 law permitting expansion. In theory, point-to-point air fares were less expensive for nearly-full flights and this would provide affordable O&D service. The Legislature took Northwest Airlines view that a 50-50 split was optimal.

    The major airlines are consolidating operations in “metroplexes” at a single airport, already used as a hub, and flying from one of their hubs-to another of their hubs more often. They fly less often to airports that, for each airline now, are there-and-back trips. Among other problems, this is a tacit market-sharing agreement in restraint of trade, and the Twin Cities may be disadvantaged economically.
  • Smaac Forum Panel
    published this page in News 2020-07-09 11:23:21 -0500