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DENVER (KDVR) — The holiday travel season is in full swing. Denver International Airport is seeing almost as many passengers as it saw during the 2019 holiday travel season — and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic cut airport travel traffic in 2020, but now more people are heading to see loved ones despite the spread of a new fast-moving COVID-19 variant.

“[Number of passengers] is only 5% lower than the same period in 2019, is what we’re forecasting this year,” said Denver International Airport spokesperson Stephanie Figueroa.

And that’s good news for Denver’s largest carrier in terms of total flights and destinations: United Airlines.

“Leisure demand is back,” said Matt Miller, vice president of the Denver hub for United Airlines. “This holiday season, we’re going to actually see more than double the amount of customers that we had at the same time last year and levels that are equal to, if not higher, than what we had in 2019.”

Miller said Denver has been key to the company’s recovery thanks to a strong domestic schedule that has seen an increase throughout the summer and fall.

“Denver is United’s fastest-growing and largest hub right now,” Miller said.

With more than 60,000 United customers a day, planes are full at DIA. United and DIA said their busiest day will be Thursday, Dec. 23. In terms of passenger traffic, the airport is experiencing something a bit different this year.

“This year, we’ve seen our travel demand actually spread across many days,” Miller said. “With flexible work schedules — work from home — customers are actually leaving a little bit in advance and likely coming back a little bit after the holiday.”

Southwest Airlines is also seeing full flights. Southwest said Denver is its largest and busiest operation. Frontier Airlines said it is looking forward to a robust holiday travel season and has added new destinations. In fact, all three airlines in this report said they are expanding at DIA.

Between Dec. 20-Jan. 3, DIA expects about 2.7 million airline passengers will travel through the Mile High City, according to airport forecasting.