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MSP airport busy in holiday travel surge

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Officials at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport said Sunday was expected to be the busiest day of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, with travelers returning to the skies in numbers close to pre-pandemic levels.

Some 36,000 passengers were expected to clear security at MSP on Sunday, according to Jeff Lea, spokesman for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which owns and operates the airport.

Airport officials had expected Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday to be the busiest travel days at MSP this Thanksgiving. All told, AAA predicted some 4.5 million people across the country would take to the skies during the Thanksgiving holiday, almost an 8% increase over last year.

The MAC initially predicted Sunday to be the second-busiest day of the Thanksgiving holiday with around 32,200 passengers clearing security, not including last-minute bookings. That compares with 37,000 to 39,000 Thanksgiving travelers checking through security on busy days in 2019, according to Lea.

MSP appears to have been spared a rash of airline cancellations and delays experienced across the country on Sunday.

Nationally, 4,944 flights were delayed and 157 canceled — some due to heavy rain and gusty winds battering the Northeast by early evening Sunday. At MSP, just four flights had been canceled Sunday, and 24 delayed, according to the FlightAware aviation website.

Major airports in the New York metro area on Sunday warned travelers to arrive extra early due to inclement weather, but skies were clear in Minnesota.

Last week, travel industry analyst Kyle Potter said weather would likely be the holiday’s “X-factor.”

A bad storm “in one pocket of the country could throw an entire airline out of whack. The forecast will be more important than ever,” said Potter, executive editor of the Thrifty Traveler website.

The head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in Minnesota said last week that additional security officers from TSA’s national deployment force would be working in the Twin Cities during the holiday, along with three additional canine teams to sniff out possible explosives.

But overall, TSA needs more employees to handle the rush locally, especially as the Christmas holiday approaches, said Marty Robinson, TSA’s federal security director for Minnesota.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if air travel numbers surpass 2019 around Christmas week,” Potter said.

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