MSP Airport operator expecting $120M federal support after historic drop in traffic

Flights and passenger numbers have plunged at the Twin Cities Airport.
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The organization that operates Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is expecting to get a slice of $120 million from the federal bailout fund for the nation's air industry.

Brian Ryks, the CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, says the airport has experienced an historic downturn in flight and passenger traffic during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter he released on Monday, he says that revenues for the airport and the many businesses based there having dried up, but that help is arriving in the short-term at least in the form of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act .

"While we don’t know the specific share of aid the MAC will receive, we anticipate it will exceed $120 million," Ryks said, though he notes that while this will help the MAC pay off debt and assist with its cash flow, it's only a temporary fix.

"With all our major revenue sources only generating a small percentage of budgeted revenues, long term it won’t be enough," he said, noting he will continue to work with Minnesota's elected officials to see if more support could be provided.

Ryks also shared some of the remarkable details of how traffic has dropped at the airport.

Since the onset of COVID-19, airlines have suspended 94 routes from MSP, with a number stopping service temporarily, or planning to, including Aer Lingus, Air Canada, Air France, Condor, JetBlue, KLM and Spirit.

Meanwhile, the number of passengers screened at its security checkpoints has fallen 95 percent compared to a year ago, while passengers are only using about 2 percent of MSP's parking capacity.

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Inside, just 21 of MSP's 75 restaurants and bars remain open, while 9 out of 52 retail stores are open, and those that are open are operating on severely reduced demand.

"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," Ryks said.

Despite the funding squeeze, the MAC says it's taking advantage of the quiet period by pushing ahead with the modernization of Terminal 1, which is halfway through a 6-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," Ryks said.

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