A security checkpoint connecting the InterContinental Hotel with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was closed down on Monday, sparking fury from airport officials.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) last month notified the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which is responsible for the operation of MSP, that it intended to close the checkpoint between the hotel and Terminal 1 on Nov. 18.
The checkpoint is little known to many travelers out of MSP, with the TSA saying that "passenger volume ... does not justify the continued deployment of TSA staff to this location."
The closure went ahead on Monday, and at a MAC meeting later in the day, MAC Board Chair Rick King accused the TSA of not holding up "its end of the bargain."
He notes that MAC CEO Brian Ryks had requested a meeting with the acting TSA administrator prior to the closure of the checkpoint.
"That meeting has not occurred, yet the TSA closed the checkpoint anyway," King said. "The MAC has worked very hard to develop and maintain a positive, good faith partnership with the TSA since it was created following 9/11.
"We have spent tens of millions of dollars on security infrastructure, and worked hand-in-hand with the TSA and airlines to continually improve screening operations.
"Today, I am sad to say, the TSA has not held up its end of the bargain."
The closure comes as MSP prepares for one of the busiest travel times of the year, with huge numbers of travelers expected to pass through its terminals during the Thanksgiving and Christmas rush.
While the hotel checkpoint was less regularly used, it did provide a useful alternative for travelers during the reconstruction of Terminal 1 earlier this year, which led to disruption at the North and South checkpoints.
It comes amid wider concern at the MAC about TSA staffing levels at the Twin Cities airport, with King in his statement criticizing the "decision makers, particularly those in Washington D.C.," while otherwise praising the efforts of TSA employees.
"What we are asking of the TSA is the same thing we’ve been asking for months now: that they properly staff MSP’s checkpoints – and that includes the hotel checkpoint."
TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers told BMTN: "On a daily basis, TSA collaborates with the airlines and airport staff to maximize the effectiveness of our security checkpoint screening operations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).
"While the hotel security checkpoint is used by some travelers, it consistently has significantly lower passenger volume than the other, larger checkpoints in MSP’s Terminal 1.
"TSA will deploy its staffing resources to maximize the efficiency of screening operations to ensure full staffing at the busiest checkpoints at MSP.”
Graves Hospitality, which manages the InterContinental Hotel, told the Star Tribune that the closure of the checkpoint has caused "hardship and confusion" for guests at the 300-room hotel.