MAC Facts: Aircraft Take Flight at MSP

Aircraft departing MSPThe COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented reduction in air travel across the world, including at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP). Over the past year, passenger levels and aircraft takeoffs and landings have been significantly below that of 2019, and residents living in communities around the airport have become accustomed to hearing and seeing fewer aircraft. Now that people are returning to the skies, the requisite return of aircraft may be more noticeable, particularly for those working from home who had not done so prior to the pandemic. 

This upward trend is expected to continue throughout the summer as more people become vaccinated, children are out of school, and the desire to travel increases. Fueling the renewed interest in air travel is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) announcement in April that fully vaccinated people can safely travel within the US without a pre-trip COVID test or post-trip quarantine. And the results of a recent survey of MSP customers indicates an increased desire for travel, with 55 percent of survey respondents stating their willingness to fly tomorrow and more than 40 percent stating a desire to splurge on travel this summer. 

New and Resuming Airline Routes

Recovering air service suspended during the pandemic is a priority for the MAC. At one point in 2020, we reached a high of 105 suspended routes while today that number is closer to 40. The MAC is concentrating its efforts on identifying underserved and/or non-existent routes and communicating that information to airlines to help them justify additional service. 

Activity Level Trends

On average, according to published airline schedules, the number of aircraft departures per day at MSP in June 2021 is expected to be 404. This is nearly double the number scheduled for June 2020. And yet, the number is still well below that of June 2019 when there was an average of 544 daily scheduled departures.  

While the airline industry continues to rebound, passenger levels remain well below 2019 levels. The number of passengers screened at MSP checkpoints in March 2021 was the highest since April 2020, averaging 50 percent below passenger numbers compared to March 2019.

In May 2020, the average daily number of flights into and out of MSP was 284 - a reduction of about 74 percent compared with May 2019 when approximately 1,100 flights per day operated at MSP.  So far for May 2021, MSP is averaging just over 700 flights per day – about 35 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

With vaccination rates rising, states rolling back COVID-19 restrictions and businesses coming back to full strength, it’s only a matter of time before MSP returns to pre-pandemic passenger and flight numbers. Neighbors living near the airport may find air traffic more noticeable after a year of substantially reduced activity. 

As our communities adjust to the return to typical aviation activity levels, our staff will continue to be available to address our neighbors’ questions and concerns at: