Debi with Rocky Mountain ASTA on one of the new outdoor spaces at Denver International Airport.

Debi had an opportunity to hear updates from the Senior Vice Presidents of Airport Expansion, Special Projects, and Government & Community Affairs at Denver International Airport recently. I went with the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the American Society of Travel Advisors (I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Chapter). So much information was shared with us – I hope I get it all right here! It really reinforced what an enormous project the expansion has been for the last few years and will continue to be for several more.

How DEN Began

When DEN opened in 1995, the terminal handled 25 million passengers. It was built to accommodate 50 million, and this year it will see 70 million passengers! The current TSA screening area was never meant to be – this was just supposed to be a “Great Hall” where people could meet up and relax. TSA’s role expanded and screening got more detailed following September 11 and TSA had to expand into the Great Hall. The Great Hall has been one of the main areas of expansion and re-design and will hopefully be completed by the end of 2024. The screening checkpoints will be moved up one level and will be conducted in pods rather than one long cue.

Where DEN is Heading

The ticketing desks are all being rearranged to spread out passengers and luggage. This is a complicated game of chess to move desks and luggage systems within a few hours overnight when they aren’t serving travelers. Currently, DEN has three major carriers – the competition helps keep ticket prices lower. United serves about 50% of the travelers, Southwest serves 30%, and Frontier serves 10%. Can you guess who moves the most luggage? Southwest! Its commitment to “two bags fly free” attracts travelers and their luggage!

The Great Hall (above) and part of the expansion in Concourse C (left).

Denver International Airport is also adding 39 new gates to the current concourses. Adding another concourse would be very challenging as it would require an expansion of the train lines to move passengers between the terminal and concourses. They are expecting a 30% increase in capacity. As part of the expansion we can expect to see non-stop options to Africa and South America – woohoo!

DEN is adding 26 new train cars in 2023 – 16 trains will replace ones that are more than 25 years old, and 10 will be additional to increase capacity. They are also exploring new ways to move passengers to their gates.

DEN by the Numbers

24 airlines (the goal is to add one new airline each year)

210+ non-stop destinations

25+ international airport destinations

14 countries

Approximately 1200 companies working at DEN and 30,000 employees

Is Colorado’s largest economic engine at $33 billion annually

Passengers (in millions): 69 in 2019, 33.7 in 2020, 58.8 in 2021, 70+ 2022, projected to be 122 in 2040

Did You Know?

DEN is the youngest airport in the United States, and it’s the 3rd busiest in the world! (Atlanta and Dallas / Fort Worth are #1 and #2).

The Westin Denver International Airport

After our tour of the airport, we visited the secret tunnels. Just kidding. We went to the Westin for a tour and happy hour. Do you know why it is shaped the way it is? The original design blocked the flight tower’s view of the flight path. But the contract required that it have 500 rooms. It couldn’t go higher because it would block the view, and it couldn’t expand out because of the roads leading in and out of the airport. So it had a few rooms cut out of the middle and expanded the “wings” a bit to fit the space and have enough rooms.

The Westin is a lovely hotel – built with soundproof windows – and is a great option if you have an early morning flight.