MSP: The Home Airport Advantage

A New Viewpoint at MSP
All Photos by Randy Stern

How do you feel about your home airport?

It is a place that should be very familiar to you. You know how to get there, you know when to check in to which airport at the terminal you need to be in. You know how the security lines run. You are also reminded of the local flavors you enjoy outside the airport. That is, if they appear inside the terminal.

It is also the place that reminds when you arrive that you are almost home. The familiar lights of the city, combined with familiar landscapes, become clearer when your flight is about to land.

When I travel by air, my home airport serves as a reminder of the work that needs to be accomplished by the time I board my flight to when I land back there again.

Let me tell you about my home airport – Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

A New Viewpoint at MSP

If there is one airport I have flown through that offers more travel options, while providing a maximum amount of services to keep me going prior to boarding, it is MSP. For the past 15 years, MSP has become be the most convenient, and easiest to use airport I ever flown in and out of. Better than LAX, Burbank, SFO, Oakland, Dulles, and Reagan National? Absolutely.

The distance between home and Terminal 1 at MSP is just 20 miles. It is really easy to get to, especially when I developed my own driving route to get there. It is also easily accessible by public transportation, thanks to Metro Transit’s Blue Line light rail service. Both terminals have stations that are an easy walking distance to the Transportation Security Administration’s checkpoints throughout both terminals.

This convenience was indeed by design, but also by evolution. The space where MSP sits has been in use for air services since 1921. It used to be an auto racing venue, but its owners filed for bankruptcy. The new owners turned into an airfield.

Northwest Airlines began operations out of what was then called Wold-Chamberlain Field in 1926. It would be the airport’s main airline from that point on. Northwest would also see the arrival of North Central Airlines in 1952, both using Wold-Chamberlain as its main operations center. Terminal 1, known also as the Lindbergh Terminal would start construction in 1958, anticipating the jet age along with the eventual expansion of both Northwest and North Central at MSP.

Northwest A320

MSP has seen plenty of changes through the growth of its hometown airlines. By 1970, Northwest would be called Northwest Orient, thanks to its services across the Pacific into Asia. North Central would merge with Southern Airlines, before merging one more time with Hughes Air West to form Republic Airlines in 1979. The two main airlines at MSP would become one by 1986. In 2010, Northwest would be merged into Delta Air Lines. The Atlanta-based airline has become a household staple for us in the Twin Cities, operating the largest number of flights out of MSP.

I mentioned there were two terminals at MSP. The second terminal, known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Terminal, was built in 2001 for charter flights. Eventually, it would become the hub for Sun Country Airlines. Sun Country mainly operates low-cost leisure services to vacation spots in the Americas. Today, the theme of low-cost leisure travel continues at Terminal 2 with Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, Icelandair, Condor, and Aer Lingus joining Sun Country is this relaxed terminal on the other side of the airport.

What makes MSP a wonderful airport to fly out of? There are three sets of main runways – capable of handling Delta’s heavy schedule, and incoming international flights. It is also one of the better airports in the country that manages winter travel extremely well. They really do good job of runway condition management to clear snow and prevent ice to melt the tarmac, along with deicing every outbound flight. And, let’s not forget about the plane viewing areas: One at the end of Cargo Road and the other that is the Cell Phone Lot on Post Road.

Recently, a series of new projects have begun at MSP. For one, the opening of an on-site hotel – the Intercontinental. Last month, I had a preview of the new hotel, thanks to MSP’s new monthly engagement opportunity for aviation geeks. At the top of the hotel is the Altitude Lounge that offers a superb view of Terminal 1 and two sets of the longer runways.

Parking at Terminal 1 will be expanded onto a new multi-level ramp (that is what we call garages here in Minnesota). That project, along with a new outbound roadway, are set to be completed this year. Not to mention some major updates to the main building at the same terminal. These terminal projects have a date of completion set for 2022. Of course, I’m just skimming through the highlights here.

Spirit…

Even before I moved to the Twin Cities, I actually enjoyed my first go-round with MSP. That was in 1998 and I flew out from Washington-Reagan National on Delta via Cincinnati to get here. That was actually a wonderful trip and, frankly, I cannot recall most of the places we went to. I doubt that most of them exist anymore. A few of the people I recall from that trip are still friends of mine.

Once I became a resident of this area, I began to utilize MSP for my travel. First, it was leisure trips – to see friends (current and former). Sometimes, it was just a trip to explore new places. There were some memorable ones, such as heading to the Pacific Northwest via Seattle-Tacoma on Sun Country, Detroit on Northwest, Toronto on Midwest Airlines via Milwaukee, New York on American Airlines via O’Hare, a return to Washington on Northwest, and an epic homecoming to Los Angeles on American via Dallas-Fort Worth.

In 2011, it seemed that every trip was for work, or some work-related purpose, from that point forward. Not that I’m complaining. The convenience of MSP and the availability of flights to where I need to be help in making this transition work. The majority of these flights were on Delta – that’s a given. Although, American, Southwest, Sun Country, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines played their role in my business travel over these past nine years.

An airport can be utilized for more than just taking a flight somewhere. Prior to 2011, I found myself picking various rental cars at MSP. Some of my earlier adventures into automotive media, as well as some want of just getting away somewhere by car, began and ended at MSP. I lost count as to how many rentals happened at the airport. Nor do I recall the number of vehicles I rented from there. I do know that Hertz, AvisBudget, and National/Alamo got a lot of money from me during the first part of my life here in the Twin Cities.

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Also, I have done various driving duties to and from the airport. When you have a roommate who have done her share of business travel, you become the one either dropping her off for an early flight out or picking her up from a late arrival. Don’t worry, she has done that for me a few times, as well. Plus, a few friends and family members have either been dropped off, picked up, or vice versa with me at MSP.

All of this points to a simple fact that an airport can be convenient as easy to use for any travel purpose. From flight connections to getting something you forgot to pack and everything else in-between and beyond, you can expect much more from MSP once this round of improvements is complete. Even with the construction, I found MSP to be a very easy to use airport in every instance I am there.

There is one tip to impart here: don’t let this airport – or any airport – intimidate you. In fact, make it your home away from home – even if you seldom travel.

If you want further evidence of why I am praising MSP, attend one of the aviation geek gatherings at the Intercontinental Hotel by Terminal 1. Get a view of why MSP is the airport we love flying in and out of.

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