Searches for flights from MSP to Denver are up more than searches from just about any other airport recently, and don't kid yourself into believing it's because of skiing or the Broncos.
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Instead, the reason is legal weed, or at least that's the conclusion emerging from a study put together by the travel research website Hopper.
Hopper's Patrick Surry found that the number of flight searches made by folks looking to fly from MSP to DEN is up 58 percent since the beginning of December. That's a bigger jump than any other airport with the somewhat bizarre exception of Nashville, where searches of that sort are up 63 percent.
Though correlation doesn't mean causation, Surry's study controlled for confounding factors like the possibility the uptick is simply due to heightened interest in Colorado skiing or NFL football (the Broncos hosted two playoff games this month).
Reached for comment today, Surry said that with regard to the cities where demand for flights to DEN seemed to surge -- other examples include Detroit, Cincinnati, and Cleveland -- "Minneapolis is definitely the outlier that was hard to understand."
"When we looked at where increased demand was coming from and plotted that out on a map, it didn't seem to be a random collection of cities," Surry said. "They seem to be clustered together in the Midwest and South, which overlays pretty well with states that have stricter marijuana laws."
"Minneapolis is the one place that didn't seem to fit that pattern," Surry continued. "I don't have a good theory for why that is, though we did see high demand coming out of Minneapolis and Chicago during the whole 'polar vortex' thing, so may it's related to the cold and people thinking about fun stuff to do in the snow, and that leads them to Denver."
C'mon, we said. We both know it's more likely Minnesotans simply want to get to Denver because there's a bunch of stoney folks living around here.
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"Yeah, I know, that's possible," Surry replied with a chuckle. "It's possible that there's a latent demand [in Minneapolis] that is showing up now."
Nationally, searches for flights to Denver have been more than 6 percent above the national average since December 1, with interest, um, the highest during the first week after marijuana was legalized, Surry found.
Surry also notes that Colorado reported $5 million worth of marijuana sales during the first week of January alone. Even stoners can do the math and figure out that pace amounts to $20 million a month.
I'll tell ya what, legislators -- you could build a lot of shiny new Senate Office Buildings with that sort of dough.