RNC Milwaukee 2024; airport preps for first-time travelers

Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport will have thousands of first-time visitors walking through its terminals as they arrive for the 2024 Republican National Convention.

They will arrive by plane load, from California to the Carolinas, on jet airliners and private planes. The airport is the first chance Milwaukee will have to impress.

"It’s very important to us," airport director Brian Dranzik said. "We want to showcase the airport as the first impression for people coming in from where they’re coming in"

Dranzik has now prepared for two national political conventions.

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"We’ve been very thoughtful over the past couple of years of what this experience is going to be like for people," he said. "We were prepping like this for the DNC in 2020."

This time, though, people are really coming. And the airport will be ready in ways we can and cannot see.

"One of the things we did a few weeks ago is recapped the entire terminal space, which took about a week and a half to complete," he said. "Also things like runway safety, making sure the airfield is in good condition. We’re going to suspend some of our work activity. Work will conclude before the even and start up again."

In terms of air traffic volume, the RNC will make Milwaukee's airport just a tad busier than it would be during a normal spring break week. It’s more than equipped to handle commercial traffic.

A bigger challenge is handling the scores of private planes coming to Milwaukee, sometimes on short notice. 

"We’re trying to get information from them as to what that private air traffic looks like, but the problem with that is that they don’t have to notify us until 24 hours before they arrive, but they’ll be shutting down two runways," Dranzik said.

The signage is already up, reminding visitors about the event. A Dunkin' Donuts will be open just in time to greet them.

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Perhaps the first test of readiness will be how things go at baggage claim.

"That’s our conversation with the airlines because they’re the ones pulling the bags off and making sure they’re getting back to the causal system," Dranzik said. "I’m not expecting too may issues that way."

To learn more on how to handle the mass departures on the two days following the convention, Mitchell officials reached out to the airport in Louisville which handles such crowds each year on the day after the Kentucky Derby. 

It’s all hands on deck until the last plane leaves, and the two days following the convention will be the busiest.

"When people are leaving, that’s equivalent to a Super Bowl scenario," Dranzik said. "Everyone’s gonna want to get out at pretty much the same time."

Dranzik is confident the airport’s final impression will be as impressive as its first.