Nov 20, 2023 - News

What to expect with holiday travel in Colorado

Illustration of a turkey pulling a suitcase.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

The holiday travel season is underway.

Why it matters: The combination of an increased number of travelers and Colorado's fickle weather make driving or flying an adventure this time of year.

State of play: Half of Colorado travelers are planning a trip at Thanksgiving with at least one overnight stay, according to a AAA Colorado survey. The busiest travel days are expected to be Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday.

By the numbers: Denver International Airport is expecting 785,000 passengers to pass through from Nov. 17 to Nov. 27, a 13% increase over last year. The crowds will reach peak Wednesday and Sunday, airport officials say.

  • United Airlines — the largest airline at DIA — expects record travel over the same period with more than 750,000 on its planes in Denver alone.

Be smart: Four new TSA Precheck lines are open at the south checkpoint near baggage claim seven, and officials say equipment upgrades will make security more efficient. The others are located at the north checkpoint

Between the lines: TSA is facing intense scrutiny for delays at DIA. In an October letter, Democratic members of Colorado's congressional delegation demanded the agency hire more workers to meet the airport's growing demand, saying its staffing is at 2019 levels.

  • A spokesperson for Sen. Michael Bennet tells Axios Denver that he's yet to receive a response and wants a plan to support DIA immediately.

The other side: TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers acknowledges that certain periods exceed the agency's capacity at checkpoints. TSA says its benchmark is 30 minutes and under for screening and 10 minutes or less for Precheck lanes.

  • "For the holidays, TSA has a solid plan in place to ensure that our operations go smoothly both locally and nationally," she says in a statement. "However, we continue to advise travelers that every airport will be busy so there is no substitute for planning ahead and arriving early."
  • She would not offer specifics about staffing levels.

What's next: For December, travel plans are more varied, AAA reports. Most travelers plan to leave two to four days before Christmas (which falls on a Monday).

  • That will make Friday and Saturday before the holiday the busiest days.

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