Safety and Travel Through Minneapolis-St Paul

July 22, 2020

 

The forthcoming introduction of mandatory face coverings in the UK for everybody doing their shopping - despite it not being compulsory until now - has created debate throughout the country. Yet the UK government's decision is not unique. The same situation exists around the world and for some time, covering one's face has been a requirement while travelling - be it by bus, train or plane.

Delta Airbus A320 (Rainer Ebert)

 

Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport (MSP), operated by the Minnesota Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), is a major hub for Delta Air Lines (as it was previously for Northwest until its merger with Delta. For those with long memories, it is even more well-known for being the location for the 1969 movie Airport) and like all air transport gateways around the globe, has seen traffic plummet over the past four months. As recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic gets underway, MAC Chief Executive Officer Brian Ryks, talks to KJM Today about the situation at MSP.

 

 

 

Brian Ryks

Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Airports Commission

(MAC)

 

'It has been a tough spring and early summer for all of us as we’ve had to adjust to impacts of the coronavirus pandemic in Minnesota and around the world. The aviation industry has been particularly hard hit as our once very mobile society has sought the relative safety of home. While I suspect most people would agree there is no substitute for in-person connection, relationship building and experiences, most businesses and families have, for now, opted to connect virtually instead. Those who have continued to fly have seen many changes at airports: suspended service to some cities, sparsely populated airport facilities, limited food and retail concessions, and a renewed priority on cleanliness, social distancing and touchless travel to keep people safe.

 

I want to thank everyone for their cooperation and understanding as we and our airport partners have adjusted operations to reflect demand - and as we’ve taken steps to keep travel through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as safe and efficient as possible. I’d like to update you on the pace of growth in air travel demand we’re beginning to see at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport now that Minnesota and other states have begun to relax some pandemic-related restrictions on business and social interactions. First, I want to ensure you are aware of a new regulation regarding face coverings at MSP designed to further prevent spread of COVID-19.'

 

More relaxed times at MSP (John Cummings)

 

Face Coverings Required at MSP

 

'Two months ago, consistent with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) began strongly recommending that everyone in public areas of MSP wear a face covering. The CDC’s website states, “Everyone should wear a cloth face cover in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.” Together with social distancing and attentive personal health hygiene, wearing a face covering is purported to be an effective aid in deterring spread of COVID-19.

 

To their credit, most people at MSP have been heeding our recommendation and wearing face coverings. Airlines require passengers to wear a face covering to board a plane, so recommending that people don their mask as soon as they arrive at MSP is not a big ask. However, with the number of COVID cases across the country continuing to rise and some people still choosing not to wear face coverings to protect others at the airport, there is reason to take a stronger approach.

 

The trend, both at airports and in the industry is to make face coverings mandatory. This month the U.S departments of Transportation, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services published industry guidance in a document called Runway to Recovery. That guidance includes a statement that “Airlines and airports are strongly encouraged to require that everyone correctly wear a mask or cloth face coverings in shared spaces” with few exceptions. Numerous airports, including both Washington Reagan and Washington Dulles, and major airports in Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago, already require travelers to wear face coverings. If everybody wears a face covering to help protect each other, everyone benefits.

 

To that end, the MAC board [has] passed a resolution to require rather than recommend that every individual in public areas of MSP wear face coverings.

 

The new regulation, which takes effect July 27, provides exceptions for certain people who, for legitimate reasons of health, safety or disability, should not or functionally cannot wear a mask as well as for those engaged in eating, drinking or performing other activities that necessitate temporary removal of a face covering in order to perform those activities.

 

I understand that, for some, face coving requirements are objectionable. However, the safety and security of everyone at MSP Airport has always been our number one priority, and during a time of pandemic, responsible actions to prevent spread of the virus at MSP must be among those safety priorities. You might not choose to wear a face covering for your own protection, but you must do so for the protection of those around you when at MSP.

 

Air Travel Demand Slowly Recovering

 

While the pandemic continues to depress air travel demand, we have seen steady growth over the past three months:

 

  • The number of passengers screened daily is now about 75 percent below normal, up from a more than 95 percent reduction in April.

  • The average number of daily aircraft departures fell to 211 in April but is now hovering around 249 – with August expected to see continued growth.

  • Airlines now serve 139 routes from MSP, up from a low of 91 two months ago.

  • Daily parking demand by airport customers has risen from a low of 235 vehicles in early April to between 2,400 and 2,900 in recent weeks, still far short of filling the ramps’ 27,000 space capacity.

  • The number of open shops and restaurants has risen from a low of 24 in mid-May to nearly 40 now. Even so, some 90 remain closed due to the limited number of passengers flying through MSP.

 

The current resurgence of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the country is likely to reduce the pace of growth in the near term. People’s willingness to travel to other locations depends, in part, on how confident they are they can do so safely. People have many compelling reasons to travel, and when the surges subside, people will increasingly take to the skies.'

 

Terminal 1 departures before the pandemic began (Michael Ocampo)

 

Travel Confidently

 

'The MAC and its partners – airlines, airport concessionaires and the Transportation Security Administration – have worked together closely over the past few months to reduce risks of virus spread during all parts of the travel process.

Launched last month, the MSP Travel Confidently program outlines actions the MAC has taken to help protect travellers and airport employees and messaging to encourage travelers to take appropriate steps to protect themselves and those around them.

Key elements include:

 

  • A robust airport cleaning program that includes electrostatic disinfectant fogging

  • Floor decals and other signage to encourage social distancing

  • Messaging encouraging everyone to wear face coverings in all public areas of MSP

  • Hand sanitising stations located throughout both MSP terminals

  • Shield guards at ticket counters, gate desks, gate podiums, TSA document-checking stations, information booths and other locations

  • Pre-booked parking which, through use of QR codes, provides for touchless entry and exit from MSP parking ramps

 

Travel Confidently also encourages travellers to take what steps they can to protect themselves and others from infection. Those steps include staying home if ill, wearing a face covering at MSP, keeping a safe distance from others whenever possible, washing and sanitizing hands frequently, and refraining from touching your face.

 

Making face coverings mandatory is only the latest step being taken to help ensure those who wish to travel can travel confidently.'

 

 

Airlines at MSP Terminal 1

 

Aer Lingus

Air Canada

Air Choice One

Air France

Alaska Airlines

American Airlines

Boutique Air

Delta Air Lines

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Spirit Airlines

United Airlines

 

Airlines at MSP Terminal 2

 

Condor

Frontier Airlines

Icelandair

JetBlue Airways

Southwest Airlines

Sun Country Airlines

 

 

 

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