DENVER (KDVR) — Denver International Airport opened in 1995 with much fanfare for skiers, climbers and others looking to take in the Rocky Mountain experience, but in the 26 years since then the volume of travelers has grown beyond what it was designed for, and it’s not slowing down.
According to the airport’s CEO Phil Washington, the airport was designed to accommodate 50 million passengers annually – a number that was left in the dust many years ago.
In 2019, 69 million passengers went through DIA, and in 2022 that number is expected to be nearly 73 million.
Within five to eight years, Washington said, airport leaders are expecting the number of annual passengers to hit 100 million. By 2050? Washington said the number could potentially grow to 150 million passengers.
The complication to all of this is that the airport can’t exactly shut down for the massive expansion needed through security lines, terminals and other sections of the airport.
“It’s like renovating your house while still living in it,” Washington said.
Short term, the airport is dealing with staffing shortages that are causing long lines but over the longer term, more robust solutions will need to be added.
This means expanding from the 28 security lines that exist in three areas to 42 security necessary to accommodate the traffic. There are immediate plans to add four of the needed lines, which would increase the capacity by 600 passengers an hour, but those won’t be open until after the holidays.
Washington said the airport is also considering expansion. He told reporters DIA has more land than any other airport in the country, so it’s looking at ways to take advantage of that.