Delta Air Lines will resume daily flights to Europe from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport by summer and expects to be back at pre-pandemic operating levels next year, the airline’s top local executive said Wednesday.
“We’re starting to see passengers come back but, most importantly, we’re seeing our corporates come back,” said Mary Loeffelholz, vice president for MSP customer service for Delta.
MSP is the second-largest hub for Atlanta-based Delta. The airline and its regional affiliates account for seven of 10 flights at the airport.
Business customers often book higher-priced travel, making their return to the skies a positive indicator for airlines and the broader hospitality industry.
Loeffelholz said she is seeing an unofficial sign that business travel is ramping up: more passengers carrying the Tumi bags popular with corporate travelers.
Delta chief executive Ed Bastian said last month that he expects the carrier will be profitable in 2022 for the first time since the pandemic began.
Executives at Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines this week said they were seeing a sharp uptick in bookings for next month’s spring break, and they expected demand and fares to be strong for months beyond that.
Delta traffic at MSP is back to about 70% of the pre-pandemic peak.
“I would say by the end of this year, if things continue as planned, we’ll be at 80% or 90% capacity restored,” Loeffelholz said. “March really starts our growth. Our network activity will start to increase month by month.”
The carrier has added nearly 400 employees since last spring and has more than 1,600 at the airport. Delta loses 500 Twin Cities employees in a rapid voluntary downsizing after the pandemic began.
Delta’s transatlantic service will be completely restored in spring in time for summer vacations. Daily nonstop service from the Twin Cities will resume to Amsterdam, Paris, London and Reykjavik. The Amsterdam route also ramps up to twice daily in May and more than twice daily in June. The Iceland route started in May 2021.
“There’s nothing better than a nonstop so, alongside the airport, we’re very, very excited,” Loeffelholz said.
Currently, Delta offers a nonstop to Amsterdam and Paris from Minneapolis-St. Paul but neither is daily. Twin Cities travelers flying Delta to Europe typically are changing planes in Atlanta or at New York’s JFK airport.
In the works for next year is a new Delta Sky Club Lounge on Concourse G that will offer views of planes landing and taking off over the Minnesota River Valley.
Before the pandemic, Delta was planning for a new Sky Club but had to put nonessential capital improvements at MSP and its other airports on hold. Delta’s new MSP lounge will be more than 17,000 square feet with an indoor-outdoor sky deck. Delta now operates two Sky Clubs at the airport.
Delta is also rebuilding its hubs at Los Angeles International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York.
Delta employees will receive a $1,250 profit-sharing payment on Feb. 14.