Build Me Up: The Future of Air Travel at MSP Airport with Brian Ryks
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives. But perhaps no industry was as impacted as the aviation industry. The rapid shutdown of air travel is forcing the industry to get innovative as they navigate their way through this challenging economic setback.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, managed by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), served nearly 40 million travelers in 2019. It was named Best Airport in North America for the fourth year in a row, with constant construction projects underway. Kraus-Anderson has been doing constant work at MSP Airport since the 1990s. The latest project to complete is the Silver Ramp, a 5,000-car parking garage and new hub for car rentals. More is underway, including dining, shopping, and improvements to check-in, baggage claim areas and more.
To learn more about how one of the busiest airports in the country is planning for the future amidst a global pandemic, we sat down with Brian Ryks, Executive Director and CEO of the MAC, as well as Rich Jacobson, Executive Vice President at Kraus-Anderson Construction.
Navigating the New Normal
The MSP Airport was coming off of four years of record passenger growth when the COVID-19 pandemic halted air travel in March. As a 35-year veteran in the aviation industry, Ryks thought the biggest challenge in his career would be navigating a post-9/11 world. Air travel halted for a few days in 2001, and the airport experience was completely reinvented for passengers, with additional square footage required in facilities to accommodate additional security. With volume at the MSP Airport down 96% since last year, Ryks doesn’t think the true impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry will be known for another year or two. But he is confident that air travel will return in time, and his staff is well-equipped to navigate through this challenge. Ryks believes that MSP Airport is establishing a new standard in the industry that customers will come to expect, as the world adapts to the new normal of social distancing, sanitizing, and face masks. Already boasting a robust cleanliness program, the airport installed additional sanitizing stations, shields, and created a touchless experience whenever possible.
Investing in the Future
Part of the reason the MSP Airport is well-equipped to handle the outcomes of COVID-19 is its constant investment in capital improvements. Currently in the midst of $1.7 billion of expansions and renovations, while originally designed to accommodate its growing passenger volume, the additional space will allow for easier social distancing. Technology investments allow passengers to have a touchless ticket experience, from the time they park their car to when they board the plane. KA recently wrapped construction on the Silver Ramp, a 5,000-car parking ramp that will ease the customer experience when they arrive at the airport. While nobody truly knows the longterm impact of COVID-19, the MAC is making the most out of a touch situation.
To learn more about Brian Ryks and how the airline industry is adapting, listen to the latest episode of the Build Me Up podcast. You can subscribe to Build Me Up wherever you listen to your podcasts.