Oct 12, 2021 - News

Denver airport's traffic woes may mean holiday headaches

Passengers navigate the construction-laden terminal inside Denver International Airport. Photo: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post via Getty Images

Pandemonium dominates Denver International Airport.

What's happening: From delays and staffing shortages to scarce parking and seemingly endless construction, Colorado's biggest economic engine feels a little like roaming a zoo.

Why it matters: Confusion in the constantly crowded terminals is raising questions about what travel might be like looking ahead.

What they're saying: DIA's leaders are "looking into all aspects of our operations to make things more efficient for travelers," spokesperson Alex Renteria tells Axios.

  • "Due to staffing challenges," however, "passengers may experience long lines during peak travel times" and are advised to arrive "at least two hours" ahead of their flights, she adds.

Zoom out: More people nationwide plan to travel during the holidays this year than in previous years, according to a new PWC survey. That pressure is expected to strain airlines and airports still recovering from last year, Axios' Joann Muller writes.

Catch up quick: Problems are piling up at the airport. Southwest Airlines sent passengers scurrying Monday, when the company canceled hundreds of flights after axing 150-plus people the day before.

  • DIA's parking lots ran out of space over the weekend after officials announced the closure of the Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert shuttle lots due to staffing "challenges."
  • The week before, hundreds of airport janitors walked off the job and went on strike for higher pay and more manageable workloads.
  • Meanwhile, work on the Great Hall Project continues, making much of the airport look like a construction site.

What to watch: Airport officials plan to remove the walls in the center of the main terminal on levels 5 and 6 by Thanksgiving, which should make it "much easier" for passengers to access ticket counters, baggage claim and security checkpoints, Renteria adds.

  • In the meantime, DIA has deployed volunteer ambassadors in purple plaid vests during peak travel times to help passengers find their way around the main terminal.
  • Airport officials also say they are working to recruit shuttle bus drivers to reopen the Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert shuttle lots.

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