Denver International Airport braces for pre-pandemic Thanksgiving travel rush

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — As Thanksgiving approaches, more than 2 million travelers are expected to pass through Denver International Airport between Friday, Nov. 19 and Tuesday, Nov. 30.

This would be an increase of 2.7% for the same period pre-pandemic in 2019.

DEN expects the following days to be the four busiest days of the week with more than 200,000 passengers traveling through the airport each day.

Monday, Nov. 22204,000 passengers
Wednesday, Nov. 24203,000 passengers
Sunday, Nov. 28206,000 passengers
Monday, Nov. 29203,000 passengers
These numbers are from Denver International Airport for 2021.

The airport is working to make the busy travel season as smooth as possible for travelers, from parking their vehicles to arriving at their gate.

Plan ahead

  • Passengers should arrive inside the airport at least two hours in advance of their boarding time
  • DEN has three security checkpoints. South Security is open 24 hours a day, North Security is open between 4 a.m.-9 p.m., and Bridge Security is open from approximately 4:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
  • TSA screening checkpoints are generally busiest early in the morning from about 5-10 a.m., and from 1-4 p.m.


  • The Pikes Peak Shuttle Lot will be open 24/7 from Nov. 19 through Jan. 6. Travelers utilizing Pikes Peak should allow an extra 45 minutes to get to the terminal.
  • The East Economy Lot and east and west valet are closed.
  • Before heading to DEN, check for real-time parking information. While on the road, watch for electronic signs along inbound Peña Blvd.


DEN has worked closely with TSA on a plan to reduce long lines and improve passenger flow through security. In early November, DEN and TSA made changes to the operation of the lanes so it is extremely important for passengers to be aware of these changes to ensure they access the correct checkpoint. Two additional lanes have been added to increase capacity at the North Security Checkpoint and one additional lane has been added to the A-Bridge Security Checkpoint. TSA has confirmed it will have staff in place for all 30 screening lanes. Passengers will also be able to check security wait times on starting tomorrow, Nov. 19.


Bag drop is a free service open daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. that is available at the Transit Center located on Level 1, under the Westin Hotel, where the RTD A Line station is located. It is available for domestic flights on United, Delta, American, Spirit, and Southwest airlines. Passengers using bag drop must be checked in and have dropped off their bags at least 90 minutes before their flight but utilizing this service allows them to skip checking their bag at the airline ticket counter.

Additionally, if you’re flying United and Southwest things might look a little different. Check-in areas have been moved to the center of Level 6 with United on the west side and Southwest on the east side.

The new check-in areas have kiosks where passengers can print boarding pass and tag bags before placing their bag on a self-bag-drop unit. The new check-in area is supposed to accommodate more passengers.

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