Ex-Delta CEO praises MSP Airport as one of the best in the world

What does the future hold for the Twin Cities airport?

Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport is the jewel in the crown of the Twin Cities, and the state should do everything in its power to ensure its success.

That was the message delivered on Monday by former Delta CEO Richard Anderson, who told those at a lunch hosted by the Economic Club of Minnesota that Delta's second-largest hub is one of the best run airports in the world.

"Cities don’t always do a good job running this important, rich asset. Minnesota does it better than any place in the U.S. or around the world," Anderson said, according to the Star Tribune. "Don’t mess with it. Don’t politicize it."

Anderson was full of praise for the work of the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs the airport, for its "long-term vision" and economic management that is keeping operating costs low for airlines, the paper says.

But he also issued a word of caution for the future, the Business Journal reports, saying the Twin Cities needs to double down on its efforts to attract big businesses to the area to ensure its future prosperity – citing an example of the Twin Cities being overlooked when Mercedes-Benz moved its headquarters to Delta's home city of Atlanta.

Speaking to the Journal after the luncheon, he called on Minneapolis and St. Paul to change their partnership and investment laws to attract more companies and keep business travelers using MSP.

Larger planes boost passengers, but could spell trouble for regional flights

Anderson's appearance comes after the airport enjoyed its busiest year in more than a decade, with more than 37.5 million passengers flowing through the airport in 2016, according to statistics released last month by the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

This is the highest number since 2005, when 37.6 million passengers used the airport.

MSP has been going through a period of change, with new security lines introduced last year suffering some teething problems but now running more smoothly. And WCCO reports new automated security lines are set to be installed, which could cut wait times a further 40 percent.

Flights are more filled and being operated using larger planes than in previous years as passenger numbers grew, even though the number of takeoffs and landings at the airport – at 413,460 – is 64,000 fewer than there were 10 years ago, MAC figures show.

However, the use of larger planes could be ominous for Minnesota's smaller, regional airports. According to Finance and Commerce, Anderson – who was the CEO of Northwest Airlines before it was bought by Delta – said that larger planes cut fuel costs per seat. As a result, smaller planes serving regional airports are becoming harder to justify economically.

He suggests Minnesota could invest in alternative forms of transportation connecting the Twin Cities with smaller hubs outstate, such as train or bus connections, in the event that an economic squeeze puts the future of the state's smaller airports at risk of closure.

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