Denver International Airport
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||5,434 ft / 1,656 m|
FAA airport diagram
Source: Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport (IATA: DEN, ICAO: KDEN, FAA LID: DEN), locally known 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 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.
Opened in 1995, DEN 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. The airport is a hub for both United Airlines and Frontier Airlines and a base for Southwest Airlines. With over 35,000 employees, the airport is the largest employer in Colorado. The airport is located on the western edge of the Great Plains and within sight of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
Denver has traditionally been home to one of the busier airports in the United States because of its location. Many airlines, including United Airlines, Western Airlines, former Frontier Airlines, Continental Airlines and People Express were hubbed at the former Stapleton International Airport. At times, Stapleton was a hub for three or four airlines. Reasons that justified the construction of the new DEN were that space was severely limited at Stapleton, and 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 $124 million today) for the construction of DEN. 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. DEN finally replaced Stapleton on February 28, 1995, 16 months behind schedule and at a cost of $4.8 billion (equivalent to $8.1 billion today), nearly $2 billion over budget ($3.4 billion today). The construction employed 11,000 workers. United Airlines Flight 1062 to Kansas City International Airport was the first to depart DIA and United Flight 1474 from Colorado Springs Airport was the first to arrive at the new airport.
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 DEN.
In 2004, DEN 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.
In 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.
Additionally, work is underway on expanding all three concourses, with 12 new gates being added to A (including several gates with direct access to U.S. Customs and Border Protection), 11 to B and 16 to C for a total of 39 gates. Following the completion of this project, United Airlines will lease 24 additional gates on both A and B (bringing its total gate count at DEN to around 90), as well as build a new United Club in A and expand their existing clubs in B. Southwest Airlines will lease 16 of the new gates on C bringing its total gate count at DEN to 40. When both the ongoing terminal and concourse projects are completed, the airport will be able to handle upwards of 90 million passengers per year.
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 DIA 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 occupies the largest amount of commercial airport land area in the United States and in North America, by a great extent. 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.
The Jeppesen Terminal, named after aviation safety pioneer Elrey Borge 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.
Concourse A has 51 gates, which includes several "ground load positions" requiring passengers to exit the main concourse through shared doors to access their aircraft. Concourse A handles all domestic airlines except Alaska, Southwest, and Spirit as well as all international arrivals (excluding airports with border preclearance). There are currently twelve dedicated gates for international arrivals; five of those are equipped to handle widebody aircraft and two are 3-jetway gates capable of handling an Airbus A380. Two airline lounges are currently located on the top floor of the central section of Concourse A: an American Admirals Club and a Delta Sky Club.
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 gates near the center of the concourse are equipped to handle widebody aircraft and each have twin jet bridges labeled A and B. 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.
Concourse C has 29 gates. Southwest Airlines is the primary occupant of the concourse with only three other airlines, Alaska Airlines, United 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 into 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 (1,361 m2) Centurion Lounge in the upper level of the eastern wing of Concourse C. The lounge is expected to open in mid-2020, and will be the second largest of its kind.
Art & Aesthetics
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 walk from the main Terminal to Concourse A, while viewing planes taxiing beneath them. It offers 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. The corridor from the main terminal and Concourse A frequently displays temporary art exhibits. A number of public art works are present in the underground train that links the main terminal with concourses, including art pieces from the history of Colorado.
The airport features a bronze statue of Denver native Jack Swigert in Concourse B. Swigert flew on Apollo 13 as Command Module Pilot, and 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.
The Denver International Airport has four murals, all of which have been the topic of conspiracy theorists and debate. The murals are 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.
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.
The 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-tall (9.8 m) 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 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.
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 Denver 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. The A Line, sometimes called the East Rail Line, and under a sponsorship agreement called "University of Colorado A 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. Above the station is a 519-room Westin hotel and conference center that opened in November 2015.
Airlines and destinations
|1||Los Angeles, California||740,000||American, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United|
|2||Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona||736,000||American, Frontier, Southwest, United|
|3||Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois||664,000||American, Frontier, Spirit, United|
|4||Las Vegas, Nevada||644,000||Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United|
|5||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||600,000||American, Frontier, Spirit, United|
|6||Seattle/Tacoma, Washington||581,000||Alaska, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, United|
|7||San Francisco, California||555,000||Frontier, Southwest, United|
|8||Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota||545,000||Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country, United|
|9||Atlanta, Georgia||540,000||Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit, United|
|10||Houston–Intercontinental, Texas||516,000||Frontier, Spirit, 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.
|5||Delta Air Lines||2,055,000||4.95%|
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 disconnected 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.
- Busiest airports in the United States by international passenger traffic
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- List of airports in the Denver area
- List of the busiest airports in the United States
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- Megaprojects and Risk: An Anatomy of Ambition
- World's busiest airports by passenger traffic
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- Denver International Airport, official site
- (PDF), effective November 5, 2020
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