Super-sized traffic -- and cost -- for private planes expected for Super Bowl LII
MINNEAPOLIS — With hundreds of planes due to descend upon the Twin Cities for Super Bowl LII, runway parking is all but used up — and the possibility looms that some airports may even turn away those just looking for a quick gas and go.
Starting this week, as many as 1,500 private jets will be flying into the metro area, carrying NFL owners and reps, corporate sponsors, celebrities and other high-rollers.
While Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will handle the commercial air traffic this week, the three largest "reliever" airports — St. Paul Downtown Airport, Anoka County-Blaine and Flying Cloud in Eden Prairie — are also expecting super-sized amounts of traffic before and after the Feb. 4 game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
The Federal Aviation Administration predicts that more than 1,000 additional aircraft will be on the ground between the four main airports — all of which have limited or no parking spots left for them.
Planes that need to stay in the area, but haven't secured parking in the Twin Cities, will be rerouted to stay at airports as far away as St. Cloud or Rochester, said Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesman John Welbes. The MAC operates seven Twin Cities-area airports, including MSP.
"Rochester is already taking reservations," he said Monday, Jan. 29.
The game itself — between two big-market teams with big fan bases around the country — is likely playing a part in demand.
"If it had been say, Jacksonville and the Vikings, it would be a smaller number," Welbes said.
3,5000 additional take-offs and landings
The FAA and NFL have created a computer system that takes plane reservations and creates slots for takeoffs and landings at every Twin Cities airport. Aircraft traffic at MSP and the three reliever airports is expected to be two to three times higher than normal, according to the FAA.
Combined, all four airports expect to handle 3,500 additional take-offs and landings between Thursday and Monday.
"By Friday, we'll be pretty busy," said Kurt Mara, an FAA traffic management officer at MSP. "Saturday is when we will see a bump. But, Sunday is when there's the mass arrival."
The reliever airports, which normally operate from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., will remain open 24 hours on Super Bowl Sunday.
Holman Field: Parking planes on runways
Over at St. Paul Downtown Airport, also known as Holman Field, the planes are going to get especially cluttered starting Wednesday, when airport officials will close two out of the airport's three runways to park planes on them.
Its biggest flight support business, Signature Flight Support, no longer is taking reservations for private planes to park there.
Airport manager Joseph Harris anticipates between 200 to 250 planes parking at Holman Field by the weekend.
On a regular week "10 would be a lot for a day," said Jim Pederson, station manager at Signature, which is quadrupling the number of deicing trucks to service aircraft.
Harris said the airport is working hard to make sure it can still handle "quick turns" — that is, planes that drop off, gas up and fly away again.
As for flight crews, the airport is setting up a big conference room in its historic facility, complete with a big-screen television, so crews can watch the game and stay close to their planes. The airport also built a new restaurant in time for the big game.
After game, constant flights out
On game day, a temporary flight restriction will be in effect from 3:30 to 11:59 p.m. It will cover a 30-mile radius, centered on the stadium.
Immediately after the game, the airport will fly continuous departures through mid-Monday afternoon.
Between 65,000 and 70,000 people are expected to fly out of MSP the Monday after the game. That's roughly 20,000 more passengers than an average day.
Check out these costs to fly private
The cost to fly private range from $3,000 to $7,500 per hour depending on location and amenities selected.
M2Jets, a New York-based private aviation company, said it is expecting to generate $2 million in revenue between charter and special accommodations. Its 30 jets will be flying into all four of the metro's biggest airports.
Most jets have been booked from Philadelphia and Boston, with the average price so far for a round-trip being $58,000, the company said.
Smaller airports try to cash in
Smaller airports like city-owned Fleming Field in South St. Paul are looking to cash in on the game, too, by picking up overflow traffic.
The city-owned airport is charging up to $1,000 for jets to land, park and depart on its 4,000-foot runway during Super Bowl week. For multi-engine planes, the fee will be $500.
Joseph Carney, interim airport manager, said Monday it is hard to predict how much traffic the airport will see. However, with the larger ones already full, he said, "we're hoping for a lot, planning for a lot."