Denver International Airport is doubling down on major investments to grow its facility. Earlier this summer the city and airport authority approved a $1.8bn deal to renovate and update the main terminal facility and concessions. Next up is adding 39 new gates to the existing 107, a huge boost to capacity across all three terminals. The new gates will run $1.5 billion according to current estimates.
The airport expansion benefits from its massive footprint and early design decisions. It is relatively trivial to extend the piers to add new gates at each end. And with that gate expansion comes hopes of major growth from multiple airlines. . The Airport Authority hopes to support 80 million annual passengers with the new layout, up from the current 50 million design (that supported 58.3 million last year and is growing).
Frontier Airlines recently announced plans to significantly grow hub operations at Denver. United Airlines already has a hub there, as does Southwest Airlines. And just as important is the potential international growth the airport hopes to attract. Norwegian is already adding flights to Europe and United also recently announced a London service for Summer ’18. Condor has a winter seasonal flight from Frankfurt as well. All of this expansion depends on the airport keeping pace with the growing number of passengers and flights.
As major US airports go Denver is one of only a handful that appears focused on investing significantly in growth. That is partly facilitated by the initial design and location selection, allowing for plenty of room to grow. It also helps that the airport authority and the city are keen to talk about the future and what the needs are. Which is not to say that every plan is perfect – the terminal renovation plan announced earlier this summer has plenty of skeptics and even this latest effort has some local politicians asking for more details and data – but the conversations are happening and there is a very real willingness to spend the money needed.
Then again, there are some projects where the spend is harder to understand. A $14 million welcome sign was also approved last week as well. The sign looks awesome, with 1000 feet of LED light ribbons creating a dynamic display to greet travelers. It is definitely iconic. But it is unclear what the value proposition is there versus improving concessions or terminal facilities or parking or lots of other things the money could be spent on.
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