Aug 30, 2021 - Business

Delta variant threatens Denver airport’s comeback

A photo of passengers riding down an escalator with face masks on

Travelers head to a security checkpoint at Denver International Airport on July 7. Photo: Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Passenger traffic at Denver International Airport has recently slipped as international travel is increasingly discouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: The airport has yet to bounce back to pre-pandemic levels, and the rise of the Delta variant is only further threatening the rebound of the state’s largest economic engine, responsible for generating an estimated $33.5 billion annually.

State of play: Last week marked the steepest decline in passenger traffic since June, DIA spokesperson Alex Renteria tells Axios.

  • Between Aug. 24-26, traffic dipped as high as 30% compared with 2019 levels.
  • Prior to those three days, on average for the month of August TSA checkpoint numbers were down 13% compared with 2019, Renteria says.

Yes, but: Denver Public Schools went back into session last week, so experts say some of these declines are caused by the return to school.

The big picture: Airlines and airfares are taking hits nationwide in the wake of the latest CDC guidance, Axios’ Sam Ro reports.

  • The Delta variant of COVID-19, is casting a shadow over economic recovery. A dip in airfares could signal that consumers may pull back from travel in the months to come.
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

What’s happening: On Aug. 25, Southwest Airlines announced bookings have decelerated and cancellations have picked up for the month, which "are believed to be driven by the recent rise in COVID-19 cases associated with the Delta variant."

Context: Airlines across the country, including Southwest, planned to capitalize on people hoping to get out of Dodge by adding more routes to places where people go for fun, including Colorado.

What to watch: It will be interesting to see whether the Delta variant affects tourism-driven local economies and other parts of the travel industry, such as lodging, where prices spiked 6.8% in July, Sam writes.


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