Short layover in Minneapolis? Better grab the antacid…

Short layover in Minneapolis

Here’s the thing: having a short layover in Minneapolis isn’t necessarily a problem. My personal record for a connection time at the Minneapolis Saint-Paul International Airport (MSP) is 40 minutes. I’m sure there are lots of people who have done it in less time than that.

The problem is that the odd configuration of the terminals at MSP makes it hard to plan for a short layover. Without knowing ahead of time where your arriving and departing gates will be, there’s no telling how short of a layover will be OK.

The following are my personal time estimates (and calming words of advice) for making tight connections in Minneapolis. It’s not all bad news, but you might want to grab a bottle of antacid before reading any further…

How short is too short of a layover in Minneapolis?

Even though I just told you that I have successfully made a 40 minute layover in Minneapolis once, I will admit that I was totally stressing out over it.

If you’re flying Delta, I would say that anything under 45 minutes is too short of a layover in Minneapolis.

Yes, there’s still a good chance that you’ll make it, but the terminal that Delta operates out of at MSP (Terminal 1 – the Lindbergh Terminal) is massive. It takes quite a while to walk from one end to the other. You’re going to need to hustle if your arriving and departing flights are on the opposite ends.

If you’re flying Sun Country Airlines, Southwest, or Frontier, 40-minute connections are no problem. The terminal that those airlines operate out of (Terminal 2 -the Humphrey Terminal) is much smaller.

MSP central concourse Terminal 1
The central concourse in Terminal 1. If you stand here and wait for a moment, it won’t take long until you’ll see someone running through here at top speed in a desperate attempt to catch their flight. I’ve been that person on more than one occasion – and I can tell you that it ain’t no fun.

What is the minimum layover time for international flights at Minneapolis?

Again, there’s no easy answer here. International flights at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport operate out of both terminals.

Delta and all Delta partner airlines operate out of Terminal 1. Iceland Air operates out of Terminal 2. That being said, let me try to break down some time estimates for specific situations:

Connecting TO an international flight

Plan for at least an hour if you’re connecting to an international flight without having to change terminals. If you need to change terminals, you’re going to need two hours. At least.

Connecting FROM an international flight

If you’re connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight in Minneapolis, plan for a two hour layover if you don’t have to change terminals. If you do have to change terminals, three hours is best since you never know how long it’s going to take to get through the customs and immigration process.

The Minneapolis airport is very much like the Detroit airport in the sense that there are two main terminals, and international flights operate in and out of both. The reason why short layovers in Detroit are sometimes not possible is the exact reason why short layovers in Minneapolis aren’t always possible.

Don’t worry though. I’d venture to guess that 90% of the people making international flight connections in Minneapolis won’t have to change terminals.

  • If you’re flying Delta and connecting to or from a KLM, Air France, Air Canada, or Aer Lingus flight, you won’t have to change terminals.
  • If you’re flying Southwest, Sun Country, or Frontier and you’re connecting to or from an Iceland Air or Condor flight, you won’t have to change terminals.
Terminal 2 MSP Airport
If you squint (and tilt you head to the left slightly), you might be able to see the far end of Terminal 2 in this pic. Compared to Terminal 1, this is definitely the easier terminal to catch an international flight out of!

The reason why short layovers are sometimes ok in Minneapolis

Have you been reaching for the antacid yet? I don’t mean to write scary things, but the fact of the matter is that short layovers in Minneapolis can be difficult in some situations.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. Most of the time, if you’re flying Delta, there’s a pretty good chance that your connecting flight will be just a concourse or two away from your arriving flight.

This is the most common situation that travelers will face at the Minneapolis airport. And in this specific situation, short layovers are easy since it doesn’t take long to walk from one adjacent concourse to another in Terminal 1.

Gate G11 MSP terminal 1
Buncha happy folks here at gate G11 (no doubt pleased with the fact that they survived a short layover at MSP).

You can also take advantage of the Light Rail Transit train which can whisk you from one end of the terminal to the other (0r even between terminals) in mere minutes. It’s hard to find though – I didn’t even know it existed until recently.

If you’re flying out of the Humphrey Terminal (Terminal 2), it’s even easier. It’s a smaller satellite building with a laid-back “regional airport” vibe which is very easy to navigate. I’ve walked from one end to the other in 7 minutes (at a brisk walking pace) before gathering content for a Sun Country Airlines review.

A brief overview of the terminal layout at Minneapolis / St Paul International Airport

There are two main terminals at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. The main one (Terminal 1) is the home for Delta Air Lines. It’s one of Delta’s most important hubs – and it’s massive.

The other terminal (Terminal 2) is much smaller and nothing like Terminal 1. It consists of one main building with no separate concourses.

MSP terminal map
The Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport terminal map. Caution: it’s a lot bigger than it looks.

The best way to get between these two terminals is to take the inter-terminal train. There are also shuttle busses that run back and forth. You could probably also take a taxi, but you run the risk of the driver hating your guts for life (and saying mean things about you on social media) for having to take you such a short distance.

Travel time between all terminals at MSP

As you’ve read so far, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport is complicated. If you’re not familiar with the layout, it might seem overwhelmingly massive and not easily walkable. However, once you get familiar with the airport (and how to take advantage of the inter-terminal train), it doesn’t seem so intimidating. Here are my personal time estimates:

Terminal 1 Concourse A to:

  • Terminal 1 Concourse B: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse C: 8 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse D: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse E: 18 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse F: 21 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse G: 24 minutes
  • Terminal 2 (Humphrey Terminal): 20 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)

Terminal 1 Concourse B to:

  • Terminal 1 Concourse A: 5 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse C: 3 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse D: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse E: 13 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse F: 16 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse G: 19 minutes
  • Terminal 2 (Humphrey Terminal):  22 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)

Terminal 1 Concourse C to:

  • Terminal 1 Concourse A: 8 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse B: 3 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse D: 9 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse E: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse F: 13 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse G: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 2 (Humphrey Terminal): 18 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)

Terminal 1 Concourse D to:

  • Terminal 1 Concourse A: 15 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse B: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse C: 9 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse E: 3 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse F: 6 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse G: 9 minutes
  • Terminal 2 (Humphrey Terminal): 16 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)

Terminal 1 Concourse E to:

  • Terminal 1 Concourse A: 18 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse B: 13 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse C: 10 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse D: 3 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse F: 3 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse G: 6 minutes
  • Terminal 2 (Humphrey Terminal): 14 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)

Terminal 1 Concourse F to:

  • Terminal 1 Concourse A: 21 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse B: 16 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse C: 13 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse D: 6 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse E: 3 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse G: 3 minutes
  • Terminal 2 (Humphrey Terminal): 12 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)

Terminal 1 Concourse G to:

  • Terminal 1 Concourse A: 24 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse B: 19 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse C: 20 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse D: 9 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse E: 6 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse F: 3 minutes
  • Terminal 2 (Humphrey Terminal): 10 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)

Terminal 2 to:

  • One end of Terminal 2 to the other: 7 minutes
  • Terminal 1 Concourse A: 20 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)
  • Terminal 1 Concourse B: 22 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)
  • Terminal 1 Concourse C: 18 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)
  • Terminal 1 Concourse D: 16 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)
  • Terminal 1 Concourse E: 14 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)
  • Terminal 1 Concourse F: 12 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)
  • Terminal 1 Concourse G: 10 minutes (via the inter-terminal train)

How long of a layover do you need in Minneapolis for a no-stress connection?

For a no stress connection, meaning that I’d have time to stop and get a bite to eat on my way to my connection gate, the time that I would want for a layover varies for each situation:

  • For a Delta to Delta (domestic) layover, 2 hours would be perfect.
  • For a Delta-to-Delta (or Delta partner airline) international flight, I’d want 3 hours.
  • For making domestic connections in the Humphrey Terminal (for example, Sun Country to Sun Country flights) 1.5 hours would be great.
  • Coming from a domestic flight and going to an international flight within the Humphrey Terminal, 2 hours is what I would want.
  • If I had to switch terminals (going from the Lindbergh to the Humphrey Terminal – or vice versa), I’d want 3 hours since I would have to take a shuttle bus and then re-clear security.
landing at MSP Airport
Moments before landing at MSP after a long flight from San Diego. It’s the part of every flight to Minneapolis where everyone gets real quiet as the nervousness of dealing with a short layover starts setting in…

Tips for making really short layovers at Minneapolis

Listing out a series of tips that will guarantee that your short layover in Minneapolis will be ok is difficult. It’s not as easy as telling you that a 1 hour layover is enough time in Chicago. Or that short layovers are always easy in Seattle.

The problem lies squarely on the terminal design. Most of the time, you’ll have no problem making a short connection at MSP. Other times, if you have the misfortune of having to trek the entire length of Terminal 1 (or even change terminals altogether), you’re going to need to hustle to make a connection.

  • If possible, fly the same airline. Most problems arise when having to connect to a different airline than the one you flew in on.
  • Take advantage of the inter-terminal train in Terminal 1. It’s a bit hard to find, and most people don’t even know it exists, but it can save you a lot of time if you have to get from one end of the terminal to the other as quickly as humanly possible.
  • If your airline changes the schedule on you and gives you an uncomfortably short connection time, it’s within your rights to call them and ask them to change it. Most will do it no questions asked. Oh, and tell them that SANspotter said “hi”.

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