MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of families were flying out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Wednesday to take advantage of the long MEA weekend.

We’ve always heard it ranks right up there with the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as a travel day, but which day wins out? What are the busiest times at the airport? Good Question.

More than 43,000 people are expected to go through TSA screening at MSP Wednesday, and the same for Thursday — the average is 34,000. That means longer shifts for TSA workers, more K9s screening passengers and full parking lots by late morning.

So which is the busiest weekend for travel, these days?

“It used to be the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, many years ago,” Phil Burke, who is head of operations at MSP, said. “But now MEA, every year for the last, I don’t know how many years, has been the busiest day, but now we’re not seeing that.”

Burke says more people are traveling for MEA this year, but they’re spreading it out — leaving earlier for the October break than usual.

“Our peaks aren’t as ‘peaky’ as they used to be,” he said.

Still, he says more people fly through MSP on MEA weekend than they do around Thanksgiving and Christmas in Minnesota.

So if the Wednesday before MEA used to be the top of the list, which day is it now at MSP? Burke says that answer depends.

If you measure by seats on planes — which include people flying through — it’s July 17, in the summer time. If you look at TSA checkpoints, it’s March 22 — spring break.

Burke says the upcoming Super Bowl in Minneapolis will shatter all of their records. So far, the biggest day this year has been 48,000 people. On the Monday after the Big Game, they expect 60,000 to 70,000 people to pass through security.

Heather Brown

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