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MSP urges travelers to arrive earlier

MINNEAPOLIS — Officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are encouraging travelers to arrive even earlier for their flights for the next few weeks.

In this post-9/11 era of air travel, the rule of thumb has been to arrive at MSP and other domestic airports at least two hours before flight departure. Now add another 30 minutes to be assured of catching that plane.

Quite simply, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said Wednesday, there are more people flying lately and there are fewer security checkpoints operating at the more heavily used Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) to push them through and on their way.

“Historically, this has been one of the better airports for waits at security,” Hogan said. “This winter, we have seen this change.”

Hogan said the airport handled 6 percent more passengers in January of this year than the same month last year. Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration since late last year has been cutting costs by closing one of its eight checkpoints and trimming the hours for three others. Also, there are fewer staff members at the checkpoints that are operating, Hogan said.

Adding to TSA congestion, the airlines are condensing their flights into the early-morning and late-afternoon time slots, recognizing that this is when the public prefers to fly, Hogan added.

Hogan said the 2½-hour show-up recommendation should be followed at least through Easter, April 20. He added that the same advice applies to the smaller Terminal 2 (Humphrey), where there have been “20 percent more passengers this year than a year ago.”

One option for a shorter TSA experience is to enroll in its pre-check program, which sends travelers to a faster-moving security line. There is a fee, but you do get to keep your shoes on. For details, visit Signup costs $85 and is good for five years.

Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for TSA, said the reductions in checkpoint staffing and operations in the Twin Cities are part of “cuts across the board” at airports nationwide and were made in consultation with the Metropolitan Airports Commission and the airlines.

However, she added, “any reductions in staff have been offset in efficiencies,” particularly implementation and promotion of the pre-check program. Going through pre-check cuts the time in line to mere minutes, she said.

Dankers said TSA has recorded only three times this month when the wait time to clear security checkpoint screening at MSP has topped 30 minutes. Those lasted 35, 36 and 42 minutes, she said, but added that she was not aware of how wait times are being measured.