MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- More planes took off and landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport last year than at the newly expanded Detroit airport, but Detroit's Wayne County Airport still held the lead in total passengers.
A new report from Metropolitan Airports Commission compared the two airports. The annual report is significant because Northwest Airlines uses both airports as major hubs, and some MAC members and legislators have worried about potential shifts of flights and jobs from the Twin Cities airport to Detroit.
Eagan-based Northwest built the new Midfield terminal in Detroit and has said it would take advantage of that metropolitan area's larger population base and Eastern time zone to augment its flight schedule. The Detroit metro area has about 4.5 million people, compared with about 3 million in the Twin Cities area.
Northwest's expansion in Detroit increased the airport's gates to 147, compared with 120 in the Twin Cities. Detroit also offers more parking spaces -- 24,500 to 21,100 at Minneapolis-St. Paul.
But in 2002, the Twin Cities airport reported 507,669 takeoffs and landings, up 1.2 percent from a year earlier, while Detroit reported 487,875, a decline of 6.5 percent. Northwest operations declined 0.8 percent in Minneapolis and 3.4 percent in Detroit. Both airports' figures were significantly lower than their totals in 2000.
Nigel Finney, the MAC's deputy executive director, said the comparison relies on a projection of Detroit's activity based on the first half of 2002 because year-end figures were not available.
As for nonstop flights, the Twin Cities airport offered service to 119 destinations -- sixth-highest in the country -- compared with 113 in Detroit, which ranked eighth, according to the MAC report. Minneapolis led in domestic nonstop markets -- 104 to 95, while Detroit had the edge in nonstop international destinations -- 18 to 15.
Northwest opened its new Detroit terminal in February 2002. A year earlier, top airline officials had said that the expanded quarters could enable Northwest to significantly expand its international connecting flights, perhaps shifting some from the Twin Cities. They also had said that Northwest's growth in the Twin Cities could be slower after Detroit's opening.
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