MSP wants travelers to arrive even earlier for flights

Published 10:24 am Thursday, March 27, 2014

By Paul Walsh

For those leavin’ on a jet plane, the folks at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are encouraging travelers to arrive for their flights even earlier for the next few weeks.

In this post-9/11 era of air travel, the rule of thumb has been to arrive at MSP and other domestic airports at least two hours before flight departure. Now add another 30 minutes to be assured of catching that plane.

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Quite simply, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said Wednesday, there are more people flying lately and there are fewer security checkpoints operating at the more heavily used Lindbergh Terminal 1 to push them through and on their way.

“Historically, this has been one of the better airports for waits at security,” Hogan said. “This winter, we have seen this change.”

Hogan said the airport handled 6 percent more passengers in January of this year than the same month last year. Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) since late last year has been cutting costs by closing one of its eight checkpoints and trimming the hours for three others. Also, there are fewer staff members at the checkpoints that are operating, Hogan said.

Adding to TSA congestion, the airlines are condensing their flights into the early morning and late-afternoon time slots, recognizing that this is when the public prefers to fly, Hogan added.

Hogan, who noted that passengers have missed flights since TSA scaled back, said the 2 1/2-hour show-up recommendation should be followed at least through Easter, April 20. He added that the same advice applies to the smaller Humphrey Terminal 2, where there have been “20 percent more passengers this year than a year ago.”

Courtney Shoemaker, on her way Wednesday to Palau in the western Pacific for a sky diving trip, said she was unaware of the recommendation to travelers but showed up at Terminal 1 about 2 1/2 hours anyway.

“I usually buffer a lot anyway, but that’s just too much time to be early,” Shoemaker said as she waited in line at one of two TSA checkpoints open at the time to the general public. “I’ve cut it close here being two hours early before, though.”

One option for a shorter TSA experience is to enroll in its pre-check program, which sends travelers to a faster-moving security line. There is a fee, but you do get to keep your shoes on. For details, visit Sign-up costs $85 and is good for five years.

Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for TSA, said the reductions in checkpoint staffing and operations in the Twin Cities are part of “cuts across the board” at airports nationwide and were made in consultation with the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the airlines.

However, she added, “any reductions in staff have been offset in efficiencies,” particularly implementation and promotion of the pre-check program. Going through pre-check cuts the time in line to mere minutes, she said.

—Distributed by MCT Information Services