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Denver International Airport Celebrates 20th Anniversary

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Newest Large Airport in the Country Looks to the Future of Aviation, Customer Experience as it Celebrates Milestones

DENVER — Feb. 28, 2015 — On Feb. 28, 1995, Denver International Airport (DIA) opened to the public and captured the world’s attention with its striking tented roof structure and technologically advanced operations. Twenty years later, DIA has established itself as the number one economic driver and job creator in the region. Today, DIA begins a year-long 20th Anniversary celebration that includes milestones and events that will only continue to strengthen the airport’s position as an economic powerhouse.

“DIA is a jewel in the nation’s aviation system, serving as the front door to our entire region for tens of millions of people every year,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “With 32 months of consecutive months of growing international traffic, bolstered by new nonstop flights to Tokyo, Panama City and other major destinations, DIA is a gateway to the world – with abundant potential for the future.”

The first major new airport to be built in the United States in 20 years, DIA has grown from serving 31 million passengers in 1995 to an all-time record of 53.4 million passengers in 2014. Today, DIA generates more than $26 billion in annual economic impact for Colorado and supports nearly 190,000 jobs. It remains the largest and newest commercial airport in the United States, with room to double its current capacity to remain competitive in the growing global aviation marketplace.

In addition to the opening of the new Westin Denver International Airport hotel this fall, train service connecting DIA to downtown in just 35 minutes will begin in 2016.

This year, the airport will also enhance customer services and experiences and will add amenities, such as an outdoor plaza for arts and entertainment, new comfortable seating, additional power outlets, shopping and dining options with touchscreen ordering and additional surprises.

“With the new Westin Denver International Airport hotel and transit center, our financial strength and stability, increasing global flights and room to grow, we are positioned well for the next 20 years,” said Kim Day, CEO of Denver International Airport. “Not only will we remain a strong global competitor, but we will continue to expand economic opportunities that will generate more jobs.”

While we are focused on the future and growth, the airport continues to invest in its existing infrastructure, including a planned $46.5 million rehabilitation of runway 17L-35R this summer. The airport is also soliciting partners from the private sector for potential redevelopment of the Great Hall inside Jeppesen Terminal, to relocate TSA, facilitate connection to the new hotel and transit center and enhance the overall passenger experience.

At 53 square miles, DIA remains positioned for growth at incrementally low costs, which will help maintain a competitive cost structure for our carriers while keeping up with growing demand. The airport has the ability to double its runways and facilities to serve 100 million passengers a year, with an additional 9,000 acres available for commercial development. This land represents one of the most compelling real estate opportunities in the world. It will generate non-aviation revenue, thus reducing airline operating costs in Denver, increasing regional economic benefits and generating new passengers, all of which should result in more flights to more cities.

Added CEO Day, “The visionaries who planned and built this airport provided this community an extraordinary asset in Denver International Airport. And today, under the leadership of Mayor Hancock, we are outperforming all predictions, as we add new destinations, airlines and customer amenities. We are firmly establishing our global position and our long-term sustainability as the region’s largest economic driver.”

DIA replaced Denver’s former Stapleton International Airport, which had exceeded its original design capacity and was plagued by flight delays and an inability to expand. After locating a new site for what would become the newest and most modern airport in the world, the groundbreaking for DIA was held on Nov. 22, 1989.

Construction was a mammoth undertaking. At its peak, 300,000 cubic yards of dirt were moved daily to prepare the new site for construction, for a total of 110 million cubic yards moved – approximately one-third the amount moved during the Panama Canal project. C.W. Fentress – J. H. Bradburn Architects designed the iconic tented roof structure known around the world for evoking the nearby Rocky Mountains. Nearly 2.9 million cubic yards of concrete were used to construct DIA’s six runways (the sixth runway was completed in 2003), taxiways and aprons.

On Feb. 27, 1995, more than 100 aircraft, 13,000 vehicles and 6,000 rental cars were relocated to the new airport in just 12 hours. DIA’s first departure was United Airlines Flight 1062 to Kansas City, and the first arrival was United Airlines Flight 1474 from Colorado Springs. On opening day, DIA accomplished the world’s first triple-simultaneous landing using the most sophisticated aircraft control tower in the country.

After 20 years, DIA remains on the cutting edge of aviation technology. The airport was the nation’s first to fully implement the Federal Aviation Administration’s new NextGen arrival and departures procedures in 2013. It was also among the first airports to use new sensor technology to track and manage aircraft movement. With a continued commitment to sustainability, DIA maintains one of the most robust and sophisticated aircraft deicing fluid capture and recycling systems in the world. The airport is home to the longest commercial runway in North America, at 16,000 feet, and can accommodate any commercial aircraft flying today.

As DIA prepares for the next 20 years, it will focus on continuing to deliver an elevated airport experience and to become “America’s favorite connecting hub, where the Rocky Mountains meet the world.”

Denver International Airport vs. Stapleton International Airport

Denver International AirportStapleton International Airport
Annual Economic Impact$26.3 billion (2013)$3.1 billion (1984)
Jobs supported (direct and indirect)188,338 (2013)140,000 (1984)
Gross concession revenue$294.8 million$45 million (1994)
Total passengers53.4 million (2014)33.1 million (1994)
U.S. ranking for passenger traffic5th8th (1994)
Size53 square miles (largest in the U.S., second-largest in the world)7.3 square miles
Airport building space6 million square feet4 million square feet
On-airport land available for development9,400 acres0 acres
Master Plan design capacity12 runways, 100 million passengers6 runways, 25 million (no ability to expand)
Runway capabilities4,300-foot separations with ability to perform triple-simultaneous landings in inclement weather900- and 1,600-foot runway separations with no ability for simultaneous landings in inclement weather
Airport employeesAbout 35,000About 21,000 (1994)
On-airport parking spacesMore than 40,000About 5,000

Denver International Airport, Then and Now

Denver International Airport 2015Denver International Airport 1995
Number of commercial airlines1519
Number of employees35,00023,000
Number of concessions140117
Number of Gates109 contact gates; 42 apron load positions87
Average daily flights1,5001,300
DestinationsMore than 170119
Parking spacesMore than 40,00013,000
Average daily passengers146,50085,000
Passenger traffic53.4 million31 million
Average cost per enplaned passengers (CPE)$11.49 (2015 estimate)$16.85
Pieces of snow removal equipment27045
Average domestic airfare
(Source: Bureau of Transportation Statistics)
$334.47 (national average $382.15)$354.74 (national average $296.90)

Denver International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. DEN is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado, generating more than $36 billion for the region annually. For more information visit www.FlyDenver.com, check us out on YouTube and Instagram, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Sign up for DEN’s monthly newsletter Nonstop News.


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Denver International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. DEN is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado, generating more than $36 billion for the region annually. Follow us on socials!