20+ Things You Never Knew About MSP Airport

20+ Things You Never Knew About MSP Airport

Online exclusive features 25 more items than the print issue!

For most people, the airport is just a step in the process—a place to drop your suitcase and go through security so you can get to your destination of choice. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) wants to be so much more than that. The staff and businesses at MSP Airport have made it their mission to make traveling through our beloved Twin Cities as enjoyable, efficient and relaxing as possible, and they have the national awards and amenities to prove it. Before you hop on your next flight, read this list of facts and traveling tips about MSP Airport—you’re sure to find one more thing you’ll want to experience before you board your flight.

MSP Airport Awards & Accolades

  1. Perhaps its most impressive feat, MSP Airport has been named the No. 1 airport in North America among airline terminals that serve 25 to 40 million passengers by the Airports Council International - North America three years in a row—2016, 2017 and 2018.
     
  2. It’s also won awards across a multitude of categories, from safety, labor relations, and snow and ice control to design, development and marketing. It was recently named the winner of the Airports Council International - North America 2019 Award of Excellence in Airport Concessions, along with Best Retail Program and Best New National Brand Concept.
     
  3. In winter 2019, the total snowfall at the airport was 77.1 inches—more than 40 percent above the seasonal average. The field maintenance crew handled the increased snowfall like pros and received the prestigious 2018–2019 Balchen/Post Award for excellence in the performance of snow and ice removal.
MSP Airport Bathroom Mosaic Mural
Restroom Mosaic / PHOTO COURTESY MSP AIRPORT 
  1. In the last few years, the airport has garnered national recognition for renovating its restrooms (a project that will continue through 2025). One of the awards includes the Cintas 2016 Americas Best Restroom Contest. Each updated restroom entrance features mosaic art with a Minnesota theme from a different regional artist. Fun fact: If you look closely inside the sinks, the drains are shaped like airplanes.
     
  2. In 2012, Men’s Journal called it "the best two-hour layover in the U.S." They applauded the quick lines, timeliness, but especially the restaurants, saying that if you’re forced to have a layover somewhere in the Midwest, Minneapolis wins.

Arts & Culture

  1. The Airport Foundation MSP, originally the Metropolitan Airport Foundation, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1982 by members of the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), airlines and the local airport community. When it changed names in 2006, it developed the MSP Arts and Culture Program with the goals of enhancing the airport’s image, enriching the public’s experience, and promoting a sense of place through arts and culture.
     
  2. MSP Airport loves displaying local artists’ work, and it doesn’t get much more local than the employees themselves. MSP Creates, the annual airport community art show exhibit, runs December 13, 2019 through June 12, 2020 in Concourse C and features artwork submitted by MSP and MAC employees, retirees, volunteers and their immediate families.
     
  3. ARTS@MSP is one of the programs of the Airport Foundation dedicated to displaying the work of local artists and rotating exhibits in Concourse C. There is also a SEE18 film screening room near gate C18 featuring short films and documentaries from local artists and storytellers.
     
  4. What is MAC? The Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission is a governmental agency of the State of Minnesota that owns and operates MSP airport along with six other smaller reliever airports. It consists of a chairman and 14 commissioners who meet monthly.
     
  5. For the musical traveler - or those who just prefer to listen - there is a public piano on the baggage claim level available for anyone to play.

Eat, Shop & Play: Food & Shops at MSP Airport

  1. Did you know that 80 new restaurants and retail venues will have opened at MSP Airport by the end of 2019? This includes Food Truck Alley in Concourse E which features food from two local favorites, Holy Land and Red Cow, served out of refurbished food trucks and an Airstream trailer.
     
  2. The airport also features some of the biggest names in Minnesota’s culinary scene, including Angel Food Bakery, Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza, Blue Door Pub and Smack Shack. And don’t forget about the shopping! There are quite a few specialty shops that feature Minnesota brands, like Como Park Essentials, North Loop Market, Uptown Minnesota and Minnesota State of Nice.
MSP Food Truck Alley featuring Holy Land
Holy Land Express in Food Truck Alley / PHOTO COURTESY MSP AIRPORT
  1. With all the fantastic food options available at MSP, it can be quite the travesty if you are on the other end of the Terminal or stuck in a long security line and can’t have your beloved pre-flight local burger. The AtYourGate App promises to deliver your food directly to you pretty much anywhere in Terminal 1 in 30 minutes or less.
     
  2. Besides the usual Minnesota merch, a new store aptly named Prince pays tribute to the local beloved musician with apparel, books, CDs and vinyl records, and features music videos and artwork highlighting his career.
     
  3. Shopping and dining aren’t the only pastimes at MSP Airport—you can golf, too. PGA-MSP is a state-of-the-art golf facility inside Terminal 1 where you can hit the links on a virtual driving range and putting green. It features dozens of the world’s top courses on industry leading simulators. It is also open to non-flying guests with advance reservations.
     
  4. There are three aviation-inspired kids play areas with mock airplanes and air traffic control towers with slides. One of the play areas near gate C12 also has a vending machine with kid-related items such as diapers, wipes, pouches, snacks, and crayons.
     
  5. Not traveling anywhere in the near future but still want to get in on the action (or have a plane obsessed toddler in the family?), there is an MSP Aircraft Viewing Area with a full parking lot and picnic benches to watch takeoffs and landings, located at the end of Cargo Road next to the FedEx Shipping Center.
Prince Store at MSP Airport Bloomington MN
Prince Store / PHOTO COURTESY MSP AIRPORT

Health & Wellness

  1. Pampering yourself at MSP Airport is easy with two locations of XpresSpa (located in Terminal 1 at Concourse D and F) offering everything from haircuts and facials to waxing and mani/pedis. Aveda, the Minneapolis-based beauty company, also has a location in Terminal 1 and offers “mini moments of wellness,” which translates to free shoulder and hand massages using its plant-based products.
     
  2. Flying can be a zen experience, too. Before your next flight, check out Chiroport, a chiropractic care facility at the airport that helps travelers feel great at the gate. They offer full spine adjustments, trigger point therapy and full body stretching, and all treatments only take 15 minutes.
     
  3. To exercise before your flight takes off, there is a 1.4-mile designated walking path in Terminal 1 sponsored by the American Heart Association.
     
  4. Whether traveling with a child with special needs or if you’re a new anxious adult traveler, through a partnership with the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Fraser, and Autism Society of Minnesota, Navigating MSP helps ease the anxiety of traveling with free, monthly practice runs through the airport. After registering for an event, you’re able to visit the airport before you fly and go through security, board an airplane, meet a pilot and prepare for takeoff as a practice run for real travel.
     
  5. When you hear First Class Seats, you probably assume they are on an airplane. Not always. MSP has large massage chairs located throughout Terminal 1 for anyone to use. At just $1 for 3 minutes or $5 for 15 minutes, it could be just the rejuvenating boost you need to make it to your gate.
Aveda Salon inside MSP Airport
Aveda / PHOTO COURTESY MSP AIRPORT

Traveling Convenience at MSP

Comfort & Amenities

  1. The Escape Lounge, located just beyond Terminal 1 security, gives travelers the opportunity to rest, eat and recharge before or after a flight. Access to Wi-Fi, printing, scanning and copying services, and charging ports allow guests to fully prep for any upcoming meeting or presentation. The best part is it’s not affiliated with any airline, membership, loyalty or seat class—the Escape Lounge is open to anyone, and is also a AAA Discounts & Rewards partner.
     
  2. Moms don’t go unnoticed at MSP. There are three lactation centers available in Terminal 1 and one in Terminal 2 that feature deep sinks for cleaning equipment and comfortable seating. There are also nursing rooms at both terminals with changing tables, sinks, couches and rocking chairs.
     
  3. MSP Airport is very willing to help travelers in less than ideal situations, such as late or canceled flights. If staying overnight at the airport is your preferred or only option, they provide portable mattresses, pillows and blankets. There are lots of quiet spaces and extended benches to hunker down for the night.
     
  4. The new InterContinental Hotel is attached to Terminal 1 via skyway with its own Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint at Gate C25 (carry-on only). It features 291 rooms on 12 floors, an observation bar on the top floor, full-service spa and three restaurants.

Pet Passengers and Animal Ambassadors

  1. Sure, the bathrooms at MSP are award-winning, but where do the pets go? There are three pet and animal service relief areas available at Terminal 1 and one at Terminal 2. Passengers traveling with service pets can request an escort to the closest pet relief area.
     
  2. Adding to the list of things MSP Airport offers to help ease your travel stress is the MSP Animal Ambassadors program, which has therapy dogs (and a cat named Stitches, as of November 2019) that participate in activities to meet people at the airport. Therapy animals are specially trained to bring joy and comfort to those they meet and are proven to have a calming effect.
     
  3. Need to travel but can’t bring your furry friend along? Located on airport property, Now Boarding offers pet boarding with a free shuttle to the terminal. They will also pick you up once you return home and shuttle you back to your car and pet – 24 hours/day. Pet spa and training services are also offered, and it is an affiliate of Animal Humane Society.
Stitches the Cat at MSP Airport
Animal Ambassador, Stitches / PHOTO COURTESY MSP AIRPORT

Pick-ups and Drop-offs

  1. If you’re trying to get home from the airport and prefer to use an app-based ride service, there is a designated pick-up area located on Level 2 of the Green Parking Ramp with signs appropriately labeled ‘app-based ride services.'
     
  2. If you’re picking up someone at the airport and have time to kill but don’t want to wait at the airport, check out the Cell Phone Waiting Lot—yes, that is what it’s called. It’s a 39-spot waiting parking lot located halfway between the two terminals on Post Road.
     
  3. Running late to the airport and unsure of security checkpoint to head to first? Current wait times are available on the MSP airport website, though they do recommend arriving two hours before a domestic flight and three hours prior to international travel.

MSP Airport Operations

  1. The field maintenance crews at the airport stay in on-site bunkrooms during snowstorms when the runways and taxiways need constant attention. They also work overnight when planes aren’t operating to finish snow-removal detail work on the airfield.
     
  2. During a heavy snowstorm, MSP’s field maintenance division typically has more than 100 pieces of equipment on the airfield removing snow at any one time.
     
  3. In the winter, airplanes are de-iced on specially designed concrete pads located around the airport. The pads have a dedicated drainage system that captures the runoff and takes it to a recycling facility on the southwest corner of MSP’s airfield.
     
  4. The No. 1 question people have when they call the MSP Information Office is about parking. There are multiple parking options available, ranging from $15 a day (Quick Ride Ramp) to $45 a day (valet). Monthly and hourly pay options are available as well. Current parking availability (by percentage full) for Terminal 1, Terminal 2 and the Quick Ride Ramp is available on the MSP Airport website. There is also a Parking Fees Estimator to help you figure out the cost of parking your vehicle at the airport during your trip.
     
  5. Drop off/Pick-up tip from the airport experts: if the airport is extra busy and you are in charge of dropping off or picking up someone, try going the opposite of traffic. Drop them off at baggage claim, or pick them up from the ticketing level.
Snow Plows on MSP Airport Runway
Snow plows at MSP / PHOTO COURTESY MSP AIRPORT 
  1. Did you know MSP Airport is a joint civil-military airport? It is also home to the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport Joint Air Reserve Station which supports the Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard.
     
  2. Who knew? The busiest couple of days at MSP Airport are the Wednesday and Thursday of the Education Minnesota conference week that occurs every October in Minnesota. Many families use the time off from school to take a pre-winter trip.
     
  3. In the past five years, MSP has added four international airlines to its offerings, Aer Lingus, Condor Airlines, KLM, and Air France, with three new international destinations in 2019: Mexico City by Delta Air Lines, Seoul, South Korea by Delta Airlines and Dublin by Aer Lingus.
     
  4. The Airport Fire Department has not only one, but two fire stations at MSP. They also oversee the use of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) located throughout the terminals and recently used a grant to purchase additional, bringing the total 100. They are typically located near Airport Assistance phones.

MSP Airport History

  1. The first hangar was built in 1920 and in 1921 was named the Wold-Chamberlain Field after two local World War I pilots, Ernest Wold and Cyrus Chamberlain. It officially became the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (MSP) in 1948.
     
  2. The field and terminal scenes in the movie Airport (1970) were all filmed at MSP due to the amount of snow (even though they had to initially create some fake snow until a snowstorm hit). The parking ramp was also shown in the movie Fargo (1996).
     
  3. The grounds of MSP were originally used as a two-mile racetrack known as Twin City Motor Speedway. It was constructed in 1915 but torn down and turned into an airfield, known as Speedway Field, only two years later due to poor reviews and attendance.
     
  4. Former President George H.W. Bush did his flight training for World War II at the Minneapolis Naval Air Station at MSP back when it was known as Wold-Chamberlain Field.

MSP Airport By The Numbers

  • MSP Airport generates $15.9 billion in business revenue, $3.7 billion in personal income, $2.5 billion in local purchases and $546 million in taxes annually.
  • MSP Airport supports more than 87,000 jobs in the metropolitan area, with 21,200 people working at the airport itself. By comparison, 11,000 people work at the Mall of America.
  • TSA at MSP Airport screens approximately 34,000 people and 18,000 checked bags every day.
  • The day after Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, TSA brought in 100 additional agents and 20 canines to help screen a record 60,883 passengers and 34,368 checked bags.
  • MSP Airport is the 17th busiest U.S. airport for passengers and 12th for aircraft operations.
  • There are two solar installations mounted on top of the parking ramps at both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Since its inception through March 2018, the
    solar array has generated 11,086,309 kilowatt hours of energy.