MILWAUKEE — With the 2024 Republican National Convention less than a year away, public and private entities all across southeast Wisconsin are already deep in the planning process in order to hold such a large-scale event.
Wisconsin’s busiest airport, Milwaukee Mitchell International, is no exception. Airport staff is already busy preparing to accommodate thousands of travelers, and to ensure they choose to fly into Milwaukee instead of nearby cities like Chicago.
Harold Mester is the director of public affairs and marketing for the airport. He said he expects the RNC to be good for the airport. Not only will there be many people traveling during the convention itself but also in the days and weeks before and after.
“You have contractors, volunteers, vendors, protesters, a lot of people want to come in here before the convention even happens. That is good for the airport because that creates more demand for more flights,” said Mester.
Recently, American Airlines announced new year-round, direct service to Washington, D.C. Combined with the existing service on the route provided by Southwest, Mester said it will make travel to Milwaukee easier for many coming to the convention.
Mester said the airport expects the vast majority of travelers coming to the convention to fly into Milwaukee. However, they are still focusing on marketing efforts to make sure people chose Milwaukee’s “local” airport.
“The airport is going to be marketing, having ads in the (Washington Reagan National Airport) so you have a lot of people, whether it is lobbyists or delegates or media, that fly through that airport. We are going to be advertising months ahead of the convention to tell them to fly into this airport to go to the RNC,” said Mester.
Mester said MKE is also preparing for a large number of private jets to land and park at the airport. Past cities that have hosted the RNC have seen hundreds of private aircraft on the tarmac during the convention.
“What we will do to accommodate them is temporarily close some of our taxiways, maybe some of our runways that are not used very much to provide more places to park those private jets,” said Mester.
While Mester said he expects some airlines may add additional flights or increase aircraft size during the convention, he does not expect the airport to be overwhelmingly busier than usual during the days leading up to the convention.