Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport (IATA: DEN, ICAO: KDEN, FAA LID: DEN), locally referred to as DIA, is an international airport in the western United States, primarily serving metropolitan Denver, Colorado, as well as the greater Front Range Urban Corridor. At 33,531 acres (52.4 sq mi; 135.7 km2), it is the largest airport in North America by total land area and the second largest in the world, behind King Fahd International Airport. Runway 16R/34L, with a length of 16,000 feet (3.03 mi; 4.88 km), is the longest public use runway in North America and the seventh longest in the world. With over 35,000 employees, the airport is the largest employer in Colorado.
Denver International Airport
|Owner||City & County of Denver Department of Aviation|
|Operator||City & County of Denver Department of Aviation|
Front Range Urban Corridor
|Location||Northeast Denver, Colorado, U.S.|
|Opened||February 28, 1995|
|Focus city for|
|Elevation AMSL||5,431 ft / 1,655 m|
Opened in 1995, DIA currently has non-stop service to 215 destinations amongst 23 different airlines throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia; it is the fourth airport in the U.S. to exceed 200 destinations. It has the second-largest domestic network, with 189 U.S. destinations. As of 2018, DIA is the 20th busiest airport in the world - fifth busiest in the U.S. - by passenger traffic handling 64,494,613 passengers. It is also the busiest airport in the Interior-West United States.
The airport is the fourth largest hub for United Airlines, the largest hub for Frontier Airlines, and is also a main operating base for Southwest Airlines. These three airlines' combined operations made up about 85% of the total passenger traffic at DIA as of December 2018.
Denver has traditionally been home to one of the busier airports in the nation because of its location. Many airlines including United Airlines, Western Airlines, former Frontier Airlines and People Express were hubbed at the old Stapleton International Airport. At times, Stapleton was a hub for three or four airlines. The main reasons that justified the construction of the new DIA included the fact that gate space was severely limited at Stapleton; its runways were unable to deal efficiently with Denver's weather and wind patterns, causing nationwide travel disruption.
From 1980 to 1983, the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) investigated six areas for a new metro area airport that were north and east of Denver. In September 1989, under the leadership of Denver Mayor Federico Peña, federal officials authorized the outlay of the first $60 million (equivalent to $121 million today) for the construction of DIA. Two years later, Mayor Wellington Webb inherited the megaproject, scheduled to open on October 29, 1993.
Delays caused by poor planning and repeated design changes due to changing requirements from United Airlines caused Mayor Webb to push opening day back, first to December 1993, then to March 1994. By September 1993, delays due to a millwright strike and other events meant opening day was pushed back again, to May 15, 1994. In April 1994, the city invited reporters to observe the first test of the new automated baggage system. Reporters were treated to scenes of clothing and other personal effects scattered beneath the system's tracks, while the actuators that moved luggage from belt to belt would often toss the luggage right off the system instead. The mayor cancelled the planned May 15 opening. The baggage system continued to be a maintenance hassle and was finally terminated in September 2005, with traditional baggage handlers manually handling cargo and passenger luggage.
On September 25, 1994, the airport hosted a fly-in that drew several hundred general aviation aircraft, providing pilots with a unique opportunity to operate in and out of the new airport, and to wander around on foot looking at the ground-side facilities—including the baggage system, which was still under testing. FAA controllers also took advantage of the event to test procedures, and to check for holes in radio coverage as planes taxied around and among the buildings. DIA finally replaced Stapleton on February 28, 1995, 16 months behind schedule and at a cost of $4.8 billion (equivalent to $7.9 billion today), nearly $2 billion over budget ($3.3 billion today). The construction employed 11,000 workers. United Airlines Flight 1062 to Kansas City International Airport was the first to depart and United Flight 1474 from Colorado Springs Airport was the first to arrive.
After the airport's runways were completed but before it opened, the airport used the codes (IATA: DVX, ICAO: KDVX). DIA later took over (IATA: DEN, ICAO: KDEN) as its codes from Stapleton when the latter airport closed.
During the blizzard of March 17–19, 2003, the weight of heavy snow tore a hole in the terminal's white fabric roof. Over two feet of snow on the paved areas closed the airport (and its main access road, Peña Boulevard) for almost two days. Several thousand people were stranded at DIA.
In 2004, DIA was ranked first in major airports for on-time arrivals according to the FAA. Another blizzard on December 20 and 21, 2006 dumped over 20 inches (51 cm) of snow in about 24 hours. The airport was closed for more than 45 hours, stranding thousands. Following that blizzard, the airport invested heavily in new snow-removal equipment that has led to a dramatic reduction in runway occupancy times to clear snow, down from an average of 45 minutes in 2006 to just 15 minutes in 2014. As part of the original design of the airport the city specified passenger volume "triggers" that would lead to a redevelopment of the master plan and possible new construction to make sure the airport is able to meet Denver's needs. The city hit its first-phase capacity threshold in 2008, and DIA is currently revising the master plan. As part of the master plan update, the airport announced selection of Parsons Corporation to design a new hotel, rail station and two bridges leading into the main terminal. The airport has the ability to add up to six additional runways, bringing the total number of runways to 12. Once fully built out, DIA should be able to handle 110 million passengers per year, up from 32 million at its opening.
On September 9, 2015, a political campaign was launched by Mayor Michael Hancock to radically expand commercial development at DIA, development previously prohibited by intergovernmental agreement between Denver and Adams County. The changes to the agreement were approved by both Denver and Adams County voters in November 2015. On November 19, 2015 the first part of a Hotel and Transit Center, the hotel, opened adjacent to the Jeppesen Terminal. On April 22, 2016, commuter rail service to the Hotel and Transit Center from Denver Union Station began.
The airport is 25 miles (40 km) driving distance from downtown Denver, which is 19 miles (31 km) farther away than Stapleton International Airport, the airport it replaced. The distant location was chosen to avoid aircraft noise affecting developed areas, to accommodate a generous runway layout that would not be compromised by blizzards, and to allow for future expansion.
The 52.4 square miles (136 km2; 33,500 acres) of land occupied by the airport is more than one and a half times the size of Manhattan (33.6 square miles or 87 square kilometres). DIA is by far the largest land area commercial airport in the United States. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is a distant second at 27.0 square miles (70 km2). The land was transferred from Adams County to Denver after a 1989 vote, increasing the city's size by 50 percent and bifurcating the western portion of the neighboring county. As a result, the Adams County cities of Aurora, Brighton, and Commerce City are actually closer to the airport than much of Denver. All freeway traffic accessing the airport from central Denver leaves the city and passes through Aurora for just shy of two miles (3.2 km), making the airport a practical exclave. Similarly, the A Line rail service connecting the airport with downtown Denver has two intervening stations in Aurora.
Jeppesen Terminal, named after aviation safety pioneer Elrey Jeppesen, is the land side of the airport. Road traffic accesses the airport directly off of Peña Boulevard, which in turn is fed by Interstate 70 and E-470. Two covered and uncovered parking areas are directly attached to the terminal – four garages and an economy parking lot on the east side; and four garages and an economy lot on the west side.
The main terminal has six official floors, connected by elevators and escalators. Floors 1–3 comprise the lowest levels of the parking garages as well as the economy lots on both sides of the terminal. Floor 4 contains passenger pickup, as well as short-term and long-term parking. Floor 5 is used for parking as well as drop offs and pickups for taxis and shuttles to rental car lots and off-site parking. The fifth floor also contains the baggage carousels and security checkpoints. Floor 6 is used for passenger drop off and check-in counters. Passengers are routed first to airline ticket counters or kiosks on the sixth floor for checking in.
DIA has three midfield concourses, spaced far apart. Concourse A is accessible via a pedestrian bridge directly from the terminal building, as well as via the underground train system that services all three concourses. For access to Concourses B and C, passengers must utilize the train. Once in 1998 and again once in 2012, the train system encountered technical problems and shut down for several hours, creating tremendous back-logs of passengers in the main terminal since no pedestrian walkways exist between the terminal and the B and C Concourses. On both occasions, buses had to be used because of the train problems.
In mid-2018, work began on a major interior renovation and reconfiguration including the beginning phases of construction to relocate two out of the three TSA security checkpoints from the Great Hall on Level 5 to Level 6 (East & West) while simultaneously updating and consolidating airline ticket counters/check-in for all airlines. Eventually, both pre and post security gathering and leisure areas will be incorporated into the spaces where both expansive TSA security areas on Level 5 are currently located. The third TSA security checkpoint currently accessible via the Concourse A bridge is expected to be removed. The renovation and reconfiguration will bring back the original intent and use of the Great Hall as a large commons area for airport patrons and visitors to enjoy. This phased terminal project is expected to be completed by 2025; a few years after an ongoing but separate 39-gate expansion project to all three concourses - which also began in 2018 - is expected to be completed. Both projects are priced at around $3.5 billion total. When both the terminal and concourse projects are ultimately completed, the airport will be able to handle upwards of 90 million passengers per year.
Concourse A has 38 gates. Twelve of these gates are equipped to handle international arrivals, and five gates are equipped to handle wide-body aircraft, of which four (A33, A37, A41 and A45 have twin jet bridges labeled A and B, and Gates A35, A39 and A43 and A47 can be extended to provide a third jetway for A33, A37 and A41 and A45 respectively, so that they can handle an Airbus A380. Concourse A handles all international arrivals at the airport (excluding airports with border preclearance), as well as the departing flights of all international carriers serving Denver. Furthermore, all domestic airlines, except for Alaska, Southwest, Spirit, and United, use this concourse, with Frontier Airlines having the largest presence.
At the time of the airport's opening, Concourse A was to be solely used by Continental Airlines for its Denver hub. However, due to its emergence from bankruptcy, as well as fierce competition from United Airlines, Continental chose to dismantle its hub immediately after the opening, and only operated a handful of gates on A, before eventually moving to Concourse B prior to its merger with United.
Two airline lounges are located on the top floor of the central section of Concourse A: the shared American Airlines Admirals Club/British Airways Executive Club Lounge, and a Delta Air Lines Sky Club, the latter of which opened in 2016 in the location of the former USO lounge which relocated to a larger space nearby.
In May 2018, construction began on a 12-gate expansion and reconfiguration to the west end of Concourse A. An outdoor terrace for travelers will also be incorporated at the west end. The first five gates are expected to be completed as soon as June 2020 with the remaining project to be completed by December 2020. All of the new gates along the north side of the extension will be additional general-airline gates capable of handling larger wide-body aircraft for international flights with direct access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Those on the south side of the extension will be specific-airline dedicated domestic gates without access to U.S. Customs. In early 2018 a temporary concourse extension opened at the east end of A. This will be primarily used by United Airlines for regional planes while work to Concourse B – which requires demolishing a 12-gate regional finger on its east end making way for a new second domestic/regional jet concourse extension – takes place. This extension to Concourse A is expected to be removed in late 2020 or early 2021 once construction work to Concourse B finishes. When finished, gate capacity in Concourse A will be increased by nearly 32% to 50 gates of which around two-dozen will be capable of handling international traffic.
Concourse B has 70 gates. United Airlines is the sole occupant of Concourse B. Mainline United flights operate from the main concourse building, whereas United Express operations are primarily handled at the east end of the concourse, which currently includes two concourse extensions for smaller regional planes. Four B gates (B32, B36, B38 & B42) near the center of the concourse are equipped to handle wide-body aircraft and each have twin jet bridges labeled A and B.
Former tenants of Concourse B include Continental Airlines and US Airways. Both airlines relocated there in November 2009 after United reached an agreement with DIA to allocate five gates at the western end of the concourse for use by its domestic Star Alliance partners. United would regain control of the three Continental gates after the merger between the two airlines. In February 2015, US Airways relocated the operations of their two gates to Concourse A as part of its merger process with American Airlines.
There are two United Clubs on the second floor of Concourse B, situated about an equal distance away from the people mover station: one near gate B32 and the other near gate B44.
In May 2018, construction began on an 11-gate expansion and reconfiguration to Concourse B. Four regular gates and an outdoor terrace will be added to the west end and seven regular and regional gates to the east end ultimately creating a 2nd domestic/regional jet concourse extension similar to an existing regional concourse extension that opened in 2007. The new east concourse extension will ultimately house five domestic gates (B63 through B71) and five regional gates (B62 through B70). Completion is expected as early as May 2020 and United will remain the sole occupant of all B gates. When finished, gate capacity in Concourse B will be increased by nearly 16% to 81 gates.
Concourse C has 29 gates. Southwest Airlines is the primary occupant of the concourse with only two other airlines; Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines utilizing the concourse. A 2014 expansion added five new gates to the west end of the concourse. The expansion, at a cost of $46 million, allowed Southwest to consolidate all of its operations onto Concourse C (prior to the expansion, Southwest was using two gates on Concourse A, which it had inherited from its merger with AirTran Airways).
American Express recently began construction on a 14,650 square-foot Centurion Lounge in the upper level of the eastern wing of Concourse C. The lounge is expected to open sometime in early to mid 2020 and will be the second largest of its kind.
In May 2018, construction began on a 16-gate expansion and reconfiguration to the east end of Concourse C. Just like with the other two concourse expansions, an outdoor terrace for travelers will be incorporated at the far eastern end. The project is expected to be completed by January 2021. It is anticipated that Southwest will occupy most, if not all, 16 of the new gates which would result in DEN having the largest number of Southwest-dedicated gates of any single airport. When finished, gate capacity in Concourse C will be increased by nearly 55% to 45 gates.
Hotel and Transit Center
The DIA Hotel and Transit Center is made up of three integrated functional areas: hotel, public land transportation, and public plaza. Construction of the $544 million project began on October 5, 2011 and was completed April 2016. The project directly connects a hotel and transit center to the Jeppesen terminal and includes a commuter rail train station, run by Regional Transportation District (RTD), and a 519-room hotel and conference center, run by Westin Hotels & Resorts. The hotel opened November 19, 2015 and the commuter rail service began on April 22, 2016. Gensler and AndersonMasonDale Architects were the project architects. The project builder was MHS, a tri-venture composed of Mortenson Construction, Hunt Construction, and Saunders Construction. The rail station is located underneath the hotel with a weather-protection canopy extending 150 foot (46 m) south from the hotel and over the tracks. The rail service provides a direct connection between downtown Denver Union Station and the airport. There is also room for additional future rail lines. Ten bus bays are located under the hotel and adjacent to the transit center/rail lines providing connections for RTD regional buses to Aurora, Boulder, and Westminster as well as shuttle bus service for economy lots and airport employees. An 82,000 square-foot public plaza between the hotel and main terminal is a venue for arts and entertainment, and provides an area for travelers and visitors to relax and enjoy art, food, drinks, seasonal outdoor activities, sunshine, and panoramic views of the Rocky Mountains to the west and the Great Plains to the east without having to leave the airport. The plaza is operated by Denver Arts and Venues, the City and County of Denver agency that operates Denver-owned entertainment venues.
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) operates three bus routes under the frequent airport express bus service called skyRide, as well as one Express bus route and one Limited bus route, between DIA and various locations throughout the Denver-Aurora and Boulder metropolitan areas. RTD also operates the University of Colorado A Line, a commuter rail line that runs between the airport and Union Station in Downtown Denver.
Scheduled bus service is also available to points such as Fort Collins and van services stretch into Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado summer and ski resort areas. Amtrak offers a Fly-Rail plan for ticketing with United Airlines for trips into scenic areas in the Western U.S. via a Denver stopover.
The Regional Transportation District's airport rail link is an electric commuter rail line that runs from Denver Union Station to the DIA Hotel and Transit Center. Under a sponsorship agreement called "University of Colorado A Line" and also called the "East Rail Line" connects passengers between downtown Denver and Denver International Airport in about 37 minutes. The line connects to RTD's rail service that runs throughout the metro area. The A Line is a 22.8-mile commuter rail transit corridor connecting these two important areas while serving adjacent employment centers, neighborhoods and development areas in Denver and Aurora. The A Line was constructed and funded as part of the Eagle P3 public-private partnership and opened for service on April 22, 2016.
Airlines and destinations
|1||Los Angeles, California||1,134,280||American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United|
|2||Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona||1,070,700||American, Frontier, Southwest, United|
|3||Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois||1,009,050||American, Frontier, Spirit, United|
|4||Las Vegas, Nevada||996,490||Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United|
|5||Seattle/Tacoma, Washington||919,180||Alaska, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, United|
|6||San Francisco, California||908,900||Frontier, Southwest, United|
|7||Atlanta, Georgia||855,010||Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United|
|8||Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota||823,550||Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, United|
|9||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||788,230||American, Frontier, Spirit, United|
|10||Salt Lake City, Utah||776,350||Delta, Frontier, Southwest, United|
|1||Cancún, Mexico||424,635||Frontier, Southwest, United|
|2||London–Heathrow, United Kingdom||275,554||British Airways, United|
|3||Calgary, Canada||251,585||Frontier, United, WestJet|
|4||Frankfurt, Germany||244,111||Lufthansa, United|
|5||Toronto–Pearson, Canada||244,059||Air Canada, United|
|6||Vancouver, Canada||241,300||Air Canada, United|
|8||Puerto Vallarta, Mexico||163,755||Frontier, Southwest, United|
|9||San José del Cabo, Mexico||162,670||Frontier, Southwest, United|
(a) Passenger totals for first two months of 1995 reflect operations at Stapleton International Airport.
Airline market share
|4||Delta Air Lines||3,473,447||5.4%|
The Jeppesen Terminal's internationally recognized peaked roof, designed by Fentress Bradburn Architects, resembles snow-capped mountains and evokes the early history of Colorado when Native American teepees were located across the Great Plains. The catenary steel cable system, similar to the Brooklyn Bridge design, supports the fabric roof. DIA is also known for a pedestrian bridge connecting the terminal to Concourse A that allows travelers to view planes taxiing beneath them and has views of the Rocky Mountains to the West and the high plains to the East.
Both during construction and after opening, DIA has set aside a portion of its construction and operation budgets for art. Gargoyles hiding in suitcases are present above exit doors from baggage claims. The corridor from the main terminal and Concourse A usually contains additional temporary exhibits. A number of public art works are present in the underground train that links the main terminal with concourses.
Blue Mustang, by El Paso born artist Luis Jiménez, was one of the earliest public art commissions for Denver International Airport in 1993. The 32-foot (9.8 m) tall Blue Mustang is a bright blue cast-fiberglass sculpture with glowing red eyes located between the inbound and outbound lanes of Peña Boulevard. Jiménez was killed in 2006 at age 65 while creating the sculpture when the head of the sculpture fell on him and severed an artery in his leg. At the time of his death, Jiménez had completed painting the head of the mustang. Blue Mustang was completed by others, and unveiled at the airport on February 11, 2008. The statue has been the subject of considerable controversy, and has acquired the nickname Blucifer for its demonic appearance. The sculpture has been defended and disparaged by many people, one incident involved the vandalizing of the sculpture's hooves with orange paint. It is believed that the vandals's actions may have been driven by wanting to include the color orange as an homage to the Denver Bronco's team colors, orange and blue. This crime was responded to with outrage from the locals who saw the sculpture as "a beloved piece of art, not just for the airport but for the whole city of Denver."
The airport also features a bronze statue of astronaut, Congressman-elect and Denver native Jack Swigert. Swigert, who flew on Apollo 13 as Command Module Pilot, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1982, but died of cancer before he was sworn in. The statue is dressed in an A7L pressure suit, and is posed holding a gold-plated helmet. It is a duplicate of a statue placed at the United States Capitol in 1997.
In March 2019 the airport unveiled an animated, talking gargoyle in the middle of one of the concourses. The gargoyle interacts with passengers and jokes about the supposed conspiracies connected to the airport.
Denver Airport Murals
The Denver International Airport has four murals, all of which have been the topic of conspiracy theorists and debate. The murals are very ambiguous in meaning, depicting scenes including caged animals, fires, suffering people, and a soldier with a blade and a gas mask. They have been interpreted in the past by onlookers to represent war, hope, and even the New World Order.
Solar energy system
- Solar I
In mid 2008, Denver International Airport inaugurated a $13 million (equivalent to $15.1 million today) solar farm situated on 7.5 acres (330,000 sq ft; 30,000 m2) directly south of Jeppesen Terminal between Peña Boulevard's inbound and outbound lanes. The solar farm consists of more than 9,200 solar panels that follow the sun to maximize efficient energy production and generate more than 3.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Owned and run by a specialist independent energy company, Fotowatio Renewable Ventures, its annual output amounts to around 50% of the electricity required to operate the train system that runs between the airport's terminal and gate areas. By using this solar-generated power, DEN will reduce its carbon emissions as much as five million pounds each year.
- Solar II
In December 2009, a $7 million ($8.2 million today), 1.6-megawatt solar project on approximately nine acres (390,000 sq ft; 36,000 m2) north of the airport's airfield went into operation. The array is a project that involves MP2 Capital and Oak Leaf Energy Partners generating over 2.7 million kilowatt-hours of clean energy annually and provides approximately 100% of the airport's fuel farm's electricity consumption.
- Solar III
A third solar installation situated on 28 acres (1,200,000 sq ft; 110,000 m2), dedicated in July 2011, is a 4.4MW complex, expected to generate 6.9 million kilowatt-hours of energy. Intermountain Electric Inc. built the system, with solar panels provided by Yingli Green Energy. The power array will reportedly reduce CO2 emissions by 5,000 metric tons per year.
- Solar IV
The airport added its fourth solar power array in June 2014. The $6 million system can generate up to 2MW, or 3.1 million kilowatt-hours of solar electricity annually. It is located north of the airfield and provides electricity directly to the Denver Fire Department's Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) Training Academy.
Denver International Airport's four solar array systems now produce approximately six percent of the airport's total power requirements. The output makes DEN the largest distributed generation photovoltaic energy producer in the state of Colorado, and the second-largest solar array among U.S. airports.
Accidents and incidents
- On September 5, 2001, a British Airways Boeing 777 caught on fire while it was being refueled at the gate. None of the deplaning passengers or crew were injured, but the refueler servicing the aircraft died from his injuries six days after the fire. The NTSB found that the accident occurred due to a failure of the aircraft's refueling ring when the fuel hose was torn out of it at an improper angle.
- On February 16, 2007, 14 aircraft suffered windshield failures within a three-and-a-half-hour period at the airport. A total of 26 windshields on these aircraft failed. The NTSB opened an investigation, determining that foreign object damage was the cause, possibly the sharp sand used earlier that winter for traction purposes combined with wind gusts of 48 mph (77 km/h).
- On December 20, 2008, a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 operating as Flight 1404 to Houston–Intercontinental Airport veered off the left side of runway 34R and caught fire during its takeoff roll at DIA. There was no snow or ice on the runway, however there were 31-knot (36 mph; 57 km/h) crosswinds at the time of the accident. On July 13, 2010, the NTSB published that the probable cause of this accident was the captain's cessation of right rudder input, which was needed to maintain directional control of the airplane. Of the 115 people on board, at least 38 sustained injuries, at least two critically.
- On April 3, 2012, an ExpressJet Embraer ERJ-145, registration N15973, operating as Flight UA/EV-5912 from Peoria, IL to Denver, was landing on 34R when the aircraft hit the approach lights and stopped on the runway. Smoke developed inside the aircraft and passengers were evacuated onto the runway. One passenger was taken to hospital for treatment of his injuries.
Denver and jurisdictions surrounding the airport are involved in a protracted dispute over how to develop land around the facility. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock wants to add commercial development around the airport, but officials in Adams County believe doing so violates the original agreement that allowed Denver to annex the land on which the airport sits.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Denver International Airport.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Denver International Airport.|
- Denver International Airport, official site
- (PDF), effective December 5, 2019