First day of security line changes at MSP Airport causes confusion

Published 10:03 am Monday, August 19, 2019

By Tim Nelson

MPR News/90.1

A change in security checkpoint configuration got off to a rough start at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday. Screening lines and wait times were longer than usual and some travelers reported confusion about which security line they were supposed to use.

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A remodeling project has shrunk the space at the south checkpoint in Terminal 1. As a result, Transportation Security Administration and Minneapolis-St. Paul airport officials have made the south checkpoint TSA PreCheck only.

That’s sent all regular travelers, Delta Sky Priority and Clear users to the north checkpoint. Lines were long, with some reporting waits of an hour or more at the north checkpoint.

Traveler Anne Hill, of Minneapolis said she had been in line for 45 minutes and still hadn’t made it to the first TSA check of her boarding pass as she stood in the Delta Sky Priority lane at the north checkpoint.

“I got here at 5:45 for a 7:25 flight. Should have been plenty of time,” she said. “Sky Priority, I have all the bells and whistles, and still just waiting. Very surprised. I travel all the time, and I’ve never seen it like this.”

Airport spokesman John Welbes said that the morning rush was made more difficult by a surge in business traffic this morning, but said that since it was the first morning of the new configuration, travelers were also struggling to find their way at times. Some were getting in the wrong lines, others went to the wrong checkpoint.

Welbes said there were 10 lanes open on the north checkpoint, and a half dozen lanes open at the PreCheck-only checkpoint.

“There’s new signs telling people about the changes at the security check points. We have additional staff here on the floor,” Welbes said. “Delta, I know and I think other airlines are starting to push out electronically, when you book your flight and when you get your boarding pass, there are message there that tell you pay attention to the security checkpoints.”

He said travelers will probably become more used to the changes and that word will get out more widely that navigating security will require some additional attention. He said most travelers will still wait half an hour or less.

Still, some were struggling. Kathie Hanssen, of Burlington, Wis., missed a connecting flight to Milwaukee last night, and was trying to get her two cousins, both in wheelchairs, to their re-booked flight as she was trying to get back to Wisconsin.

“I can’t even see the security lines from here,” she said as she waited in the middle of the ticketing lobby, standing in the third line she’d tried. She hadn’t even planned to board a plane from the Twin Cities Monday, let alone figure out how airport security worked.

Airport officials say the remodeling project involves work on the floor at the south checkpoint that is expected to last through mid-December. Passengers traveling during the busy Minnesota Educator Academy weekend in October and for the Thanksgiving holiday will also have to navigate the new security checkpoint configurations. Airport officials say travelers should arrive at the airport least two hours before their flight.

Airport spokesman John Welbes noted that the number of security checkpoint lanes hasn’t changed overall, and the capacity remains the same. He says airport officials think the situation will improve as travelers get used to the new configuration.

And he says the remodeling project was long needed and that airport officials think the reconfiguration is justified in the long run.

“We’ve bumped out the walls, a little bit closer to the roadway to create extra space here in the terminal. We’ve put in new escalators to increase the efficiency of the flow through the terminal,” Welbes said. “We’ve got new elevators under construction here to our right and we’re adding some new amenities here in the middle of the terminal, there’s new restrooms and a coffee shop. So there’s a lot going on, but when we get to the end point, there is a benefit for passengers. I think they’ll notice it in time, and it’ll be worth the wait.”