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Guide to Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP)

A joint civil-military airport, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) is located centrally between the cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul being approximately 10 miles (16 km) from each. It is primarily a commercial airport but there is also a significant military presence as Minneapolis-Saint Paul is home to the Minnesota Air National Guard and the U.S. Air Force with both bodies carrying out their own operations at the airport.

Once a hub for Northwest Airlines, the airport has now become a major hub for Delta Air Lines and is also an operational base for Sun Country Airlines. Delta Airlines (and affiliates) accounts for around 70% of the airports commercial activity and Minneapolis-Saint Paul is rated as the busiest airport in the U.S. Upper Midwest region.

Operated by the Metropolitan Airports Commission, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport bears the International Air Transport Association (IATA) designation code MSP.

MSP Airport Blends New and Old

The current Minneapolis Airport began life on the site of a bankrupt speedway track and was first simply called Speedway Field as a result. The first hangar built on the site was a wooden construction which was quickly erected in 1920 for airmail services. Renamed Wold-Chamberlain Field in 1923, and taken over by the Minneapolis Park Board in 1928, the first real flights began in 1929. Another name change followed in 1944 when the airport was given the rather lengthy and cumbersome handle of “Minneapolis-St Paul Metropolitan/Wold-Chamberlain Field” with “Metropolitan” being replaced by “International” some four years afterwards.

Work began on the present-day Terminal 1 in 1958 which included two concourses with 24 gates. Completed in 1962, the new terminal began operations that same year although additions and upgrades continued to be added until 1972.

Although Terminal 2 was originally built in 1986, it was rebuilt in 2001 and is mainly used today for charter flights and budget airlines such as Sun Country and Southwest Airlines although major airline companies like Condor, JetBlue and IcelandAir also use the terminal. Since 2001, the terminal has been expanded and now contains 14 gates.

Terminals, Concourses and Gates

There are only two terminals at Minneapolis-St Paul containing eight concourses and 131 gates.

Terminal 1

There are seven concourses in Terminal 1 bearing the letters A to G serving a total of 117 gates.

Terminal 2

The eighth concourse, Concourse H, is located in Terminal 2 and has 14 gates.

Terminals 1 and 2 are located on separate roads and to get from one to the other requires using the LRT (Light Rail Transit) service which runs every ten minutes during peak hours and is free of charge.

Customs Checks and Immigration

There are seven security checkpoints at Minneapolis Airport and queues can be expected by arriving international passengers. Having the correct documentation and ID at hand will help speed up the process as will submitting a completed Customs Declaration Form if required or immediately notifying the officials on duty of any foods, drinks, plants or organic material which could be of possible concern.

ESTA Eligible Travelers

Citizens of 40 countries will usually be able to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). This is possible through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Non-VWP travelers must possess a valid U.S. Visa.

An ESTA is easily obtained for a small fee via the internet and is valid for two years. An applicant must merely provide a valid passport and email address. A home address and phone number is also necessary along with emergency contact details. Processing the ESTA can be completed in as little as 72 hours and, once approved, it entitles the holder to enter the United States although permission may still be denied by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent on duty at the airport.

Travelers Requiring a U.S. Visa

Non-VWP citizens who require a visa have a harder task. Obtaining a U.S. Visa is a time-consuming and often complicated process with no guarantee of a successful outcome. If in any doubt, it is wise to seek legal advise when filling out the application form as mistakes cannot be later rectified and errors on the form will likely end in a refusal.

Transfers and Ground Transportation

There is a good choice of transport options available for getting to or from Minneapolis Airport.

Bus

Choose between City Bus Service Route 54 stopping at Terminal 1 or a Jefferson Lines Bus servicing Minneapolis, St Paul and other towns across the state.

Rail

The Light Rail Transit runs from both terminals to downtown Minneapolis.

Taxi

Taxi ranks are located outside both terminals and the trip to Minneapolis or St Paul takes an average of 25 minutes.

Visitors staying for a few days and wishing to get out and about can rent a car. Car rental companies can be found in Terminals 1 and 2.