2020 was a year that no one could have imagined, and like many other industries, aviation was hard hit. But there is good news in sight. Our recovery at Denver International Airport (DEN) has been stronger than predicted and we’re recovering faster than many other airports in the U.S., thanks to our strong domestic network and our financial strength.
And, though we can’t say for sure when it will happen, our airlines have reconfirmed their commitment to future growth at DEN that they had planned before the pandemic. Though DEN’s passenger traffic was down about 50% in 2020 over 2019, DEN was one of the top 10 busiest airports in the world and the third-busiest airport in the U.S. As we look toward the future, we are preparing for the rebound and continued growth by moving forward with upgrades across our airport to better serve our passengers and our airline partners.
As many of you already know, in November, we celebrated the grand opening of the first four new gates built as part of the Gate Expansion Program on Concourse B-West. The new space is bright, airy and built for the modern-day traveler, with a variety of seating options, charging stations, digital signage, amazingly beautiful bathrooms and even a fabulous outdoor deck with a fire pit. In total, this program will deliver 39 new gates across all three concourses, increasing gate capacity by 30%. All 39 new gates have been pre-leased to United and Southwest, and will be open and operational by the Spring 2022.
And it’s not just our expansion areas that are getting upgraded. In 2020, Denver City Council approved an amendment to the Gate Expansion Program which allows DEN to update and renew the existing concourses. This renewal work allows DEN to make necessary improvements to aging airport facilities and spaces while passenger traffic is low due to COVID-19 and while the Gate Expansion Program contracting teams are already mobilized. This work will include updates to the concourses, including the existing restrooms. Renewal work will begin this year.
As our concourses grow to accommodate more passengers and airlines, so must our terminal. DEN’s Great Hall project gained significant momentum in 2020 with the completion of two major construction milestones ahead of schedule: the ticketing area steelwork and the Central Monitoring Facility (where Transportation Security Administration personnel conduct baggage surveillance and resolve screening issues).
The first phase of the Great Hall project, which includes new ticketing areas for our biggest carriers, United and Southwest, will be completed by the end of 2021 and starting this summer, construction of Phase 2 of the project will begin. Phase 2 will deliver a brand-new checkpoint in the northwest corner of the terminal.
These projects are only a few of many planned for the near future that will make way for more airlines, more passengers and more economic benefits to our state and region. We are currently improving Peña Boulevard, replacing aging equipment in our central plant and our train to the concourses, as well as investing in airfield work. As we continue to prepare DEN for the future, rest assured that we are still focused on our recovery and committed to the health and wellbeing of our passengers and employees.
Our facility and the aircraft that serve DEN have never been so clean. We continue to enforce the mask requirement at DEN, and have introduced a series of programs that provide touchless service, like our Eats Delivered food delivery service to the gates and VeriFly, a reservation program which offers special service to passengers who want to lower their risk of exposure to germs.
We look forward to sharing our improvements and successes throughout the year and to serving more passengers as, together, we recover from this pandemic.
We’re ready when you’re ready to return to the skies! We hope to see you soon, and in the meantime, be well and stay safe!
All the best,
Chief Executive Officer