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Annual MEA weekend to spur travel through MSP Airport this week

MSP Airport (MSP) is preparing to see the annual MEA travel effect once again – a multi-day passenger spike when the airport may be just as busy as a travel day over the summer or during the winter holidays.

"Last year, we were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic during MEA weekend. This year, some days are forecasted to nearly double the number of travelers at MSP compared to MEA weekend in 2020," said MAC CEO Brian Ryks. "We may see a day or two being some of our busiest of the year."

Thursday (Oct. 21) is projected to be the busiest day of the MEA weekend, with more than 34,000 departing passengers expected to go through TSA checkpoints, with Wednesday (Oct. 20) closely behind. Both days will see peak periods of departing passengers, especially for the earliest flights of the day.

Beginning Tuesday (Oct. 19) five out of six days through Sunday (Oct. 24) will see more than 26,000 passengers clearing MSP checkpoints, based on current booking forecasts. In 2020, MEA weekend travel hit a single day peak of more than 17,400 passengers clearing MSP checkpoints.

On a typical MEA weekend before the pandemic, such as in 2019, more than 47,000 passengers would clear TSA checkpoints on the busiest days.

Because of the peak traffic forecasted for MSP this week, travelers are being asked to arrive at the airport at least two hours in advance of a domestic departure or three hours prior to an international departure.

Travelers are also being reminded of federal regulations that require all individuals to wear face coverings inside terminals and aboard aircraft through January 2022, as well as the airport's Travel Confidently MSP program.

There are more choices to fly this year for MEA weekend than a year ago. Airlines are operating 180 routes in October (170 domestic and 10 international) with 389 average daily departures. That compares to about 135 routes and an average of 300 daily departures in 2020.

MSP is marking the return of a more robust MEA travel week with a fun lineup of events including balloon artists and giveaways for kids in the Terminal 1 Main Mall beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday (Oct. 20).

Several live music performances are also scheduled through the Arts@MSP program, including Joe Mailander (of the Okee Dokee Brothers), featuring Jillian Rae and Anthony Ihrig of the High '48. They will have two family-friendly performances in the Terminal 1 Main Mall on Wednesday afternoon, at 1 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. 

MSP is also offering discounted prebooked parking rates for MEA weekend at Terminal 1 for Oct. 23-24, which will save parkers $7 per day. Pre-booked parking guarantees a spot for customers and gives them a touchless experience by using a QR code from their online parking confirmation to enter and exit the structure.