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MSP’S Regional Air Service Slowly Recovering After Pandemic

Posted by Frances Huntley on Thursday, September 24, 2020

REGIONAL AIR SERVICE REMAINS CRITICAL TO MSP’S ECONOMIC COMPETITIVENESS

Air service is a critical component of any regional economy, and particularly significant for the Minneapolis Saint Paul region. Large businesses rely on dependable, frequent, and convenient airline routes to transport their leadership, employees, and products. This is especially true for headquarters offices employing decisionmakers and operations functions which frequently interact with other branch locations, suppliers, and vendors, and explore new business opportunities. It is also extremely significant for manufacturing and production locations, which rely on cargo service for shipping parts and products. Our region’s diverse economy has sectors of strength in headquarters and business services and medical device manufacturing specifically, and these businesses rely heavily on the Minneapolis – Saint Paul International Airport (MSP).

Both business and leisure travel decreased significantly during the peak of the global pandemic, but the air service industry is slowly regaining its footings, and MSP remains critical to our regional economic competitiveness and global connectivity.

PASSENGER DATA SHOWS STEADY UPWARD TREND OVER THE SUMMER

This week, in coordination with Peter’s discussion with Jeff Davidman at Delta Air Lines, the GREATER MSP intel team analyzed passenger and airline operations data from the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC). In 2019, the average monthly number of total passengers arriving and departing MSP was about 3.3 million with some seasonality shifts month to month. With stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions emerging in late March 2020, total monthly passenger activity at MSP plummeted to 151,483 in April, mimicking trends at airports across the country. While passenger activity dropped considerably in the immediate wake of COVID-19 travel and movement restrictions, the trend is moving in a positive direction with a steady uptick in passenger activity since March. According to MAC data, after dropping to only 5 percent of 2019 levels in April this year, the number of total passengers utilizing MSP has increased to over 1 million passengers in August, 30% of the volume seen at the same time in 2019.

ACTIVE ROUTE ACTIVITY ALSO ON THE RISE

In addition to passenger activity, the intel team looked at active and suspended route activity from MAC. This data shows that the number of active routes at MSP is 34% lower than the number of routes that were active the same month last year. MSP currently has direct service for 130 routes (127 domestic, 3 international) active this month while direct service for 68 routes (50 domestic, 18 international) remains suspended due to COVID. The three international routes active include Calgary, Winnipeg, and Cancun, meaning service to all transoceanic destinations remains suspended. Starting October 25th, however, Delta will resume service to Amsterdam 4 times per week. Air service to all other transoceanic destinations is not anticipated to resume until Spring of 2021, though as Jeff Davidman notes in his conversation with Peter, airlines like Delta are optimistic regarding the return of international travel and service.

GREATER MSP PARTNERSHIP CONTINUES TO FOLLOW THE DATA

In close partnership with the MAC, GREATER MSP continues to track and monitor air service data as MSP remains critical to the growth and success of our regional economy. Through the establishment of the Regional Air Services Partnership (RASP), GREATER MSP, MAC and more than 30 companies in the region work together to conduct business air service market research and use the data to inform new and improved air service offerings among airlines serving MSP. RASP efforts played a major role with MSP adding direct service to Seoul and Mexico City by Delta and Dublin by Aer Lingus in 2019. The RASP team, MAC, and GREATER MSP continue working closely to support MSP’s recovery from the pandemic.

To summarize, operations at MSP are recovering. Both public health concerns and economic consumer confidence play a role in industry recovery, and we remain optimistic for a continued upward trajectory. Stay tuned for a new tool GREATER MSP will launch to gauge our region’s economic health and the pace of recovery, which will include MSP air service information.