Airport leaders say state of MSP is positive

4:02 PM, Apr 23, 2013   |    comments
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BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - The snowy April weather has taken a toll on the budget for snow removal at the Twin Cities main airport.

"Hopefully, we will not have a lot of snowfall in the fall, October, November and December," said Jeff Hamiel, Metropolitan Airports Commission Executive Director. "And we will kind of recapture (the money)."

Bill Lentsch, Delta Airlines Senior Vice President of Minnesota Operations, commented on the cost of de-icing planes this month.

"Delta Airlines budgeted about $150,000 for glycol in the month of April. We are forecasting that we are going to spend somewhere between $2.5 and $2.75 million," Lentsch said.

John Fredericksen, new CEO of Sun Country Airlines, said Sun Country had de-iced a Russian Andropov 24 aircraft Monday night. He said the Russians paid the airline $18,000 for the one-time service.

Hamiel, Lentsch and Fredericksen were speaking at the annual State of the Airport meeting at the Radisson Blu Hotel in the Mall of America. Hamiel noted that a new study indicates that MSP contributes 76,000 jobs and $10.1 billion in the local economy.

He also noted that while major runway, taxiways and tarmac improvements are now complete, there will be probably be a need for 2 to 3 new parking facilities at the often full Terminal 1 ramps and 20-30 new gates by 2030.

Lentsch spoke of the future of airline service and noted that while there have been fewer take-offs and landings at MSP this year, it is because Delta is moving toward larger planes that carry more passengers per flight.

"Fuel has been a challenge," said Lentsch. "So, we have taken some very interesting steps in the last couple of months and years to really do what we can to manage fuel costs. We engaged in classic 'vertical integration' by purchasing a refinery. We are now operating a refinery in Pennsylvania under a wholly-owned subsidiary called Monroe Engineering."

Fredericksen was quick to joke, "we seriously thought about buying a refinery, too!"

When the laughter subsided, he explained that Sun Country had taken a different course.

"We decided that we would diversify our business a little more into the charter business. It is fuel-protected in a sense, because when someone buys a charter flight, they purchase it at the fuel price that is in place at that time."

Fredericksen touted the newer ownership of Sun Country as the local Davis family, which has extensive holdings in the dairy industry and owns the Cambria countertop business. He referred to them as "long-term owners."

Lentsch called MSP a "financially stable hub. I would consider it a very prized hub of Delta Airlines."

Hamiel recalled potentially painful times in the past.

"When we saw the bankruptcy of Northwest Airlines and the departure of the operations to Atlanta, Georgia (after Northwest merged into Delta), a lot of us thought our overall economic output, the impact of the airport on our community was going to drop and maybe significantly, but, in fact, we held our own," Hamiel said.

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