Airlines ask for volunteers, bump passengers as DIA temp hits 98

DENVER -- Airlines asked passengers to volunteer to move to other flights on Saturday, pointing to the heat as the reason the planes needed to shed weight before takeoff as the temperature at Denver International Airport hit 98 degrees.

Steve Cowell, an aviation expert and former commercial airline pilot, said the request to move passengers to other flights to lighten the planes during takeoff is a common practice during hot temperatures.

"The complication comes in the performance of the aircraft. The aircraft will actually think -- perform -- as if it’s at a higher altitude," said Cowell.

Cowell said commercial airplanes are tested at a maximum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. He said that means planes cannot take off when temperatures are hotter than 120 degrees because it does not fall into the safety parameters. While Denver reached 98 degrees Saturday, well below the 120 degree cut-off, Cowell said DIA's elevation plays a big role in impacting aircraft performance during the heat.

"As a consequence, while we may be at 5,300 feet, the airplane will perform as if its at 10,000 or 11,000 feet," said Cowell.

In response, airlines will bump passengers, remove luggage or carry less fuel.

During the summer, Cowell said the best time to fly is in the morning, before temperatures peak.

"You’re just not going to get bumped. The air is cooler. You’re going to be able to be there with your luggage at your destination," said Cowell.

A spokesperson for the airport said DIA did not see any delays or cancellations because of the heat.

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