DIA unveils new 16-gate expansion for Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has been gearing up to expand in a big way at Denver International Airport — and now it’s got more than a dozen new gates to pull it off.

City and airline officials cut the ribbon Thursday afternoon on the largest of several concourse expansions underway at DAY. In the next month or so, Southwest will begin using some of the 16 new gates added at the east end of Concourse C as part of an expansion that added 530,000 square feet of space, or roughly nine football fields. It’s staked a claim on all the new gates for future use.

Southwest’s 40 total gates will allow for significant new capacity in coming years, building on DIA’s status as the airline’s largest base. Its schedule out of Denver is set to increase from nearly 230 daily departures now to 250 during the summer and 274 by October, spokesman Dan Landson said, but there’s substantial potential beyond that.

“The last two and a half years have been exceptionally hard for just about everyone, including those of us in the airline industry,” said Steve Sisneros, Southwest’s vice president of airport affairs, during Thursday’s ceremony. “But one of the few bright spots across the country was right here in Denver. DEN quickly became our largest operation in the middle of the pandemic as people looked for places that offer quick and easy access to outdoor destinations.”

Airport CEO Phil Washington said Southwest, DIA’s second-largest carrier, is aiming to hit 400 daily departures eventually — a level that would still trail United Airlines. That growth likely portends a big increase in Southwest connecting traffic, which now accounts for about 30% of its passengers through DIA.

Concourse C’s airy, modern expansion houses 20 gates, including several older gates that were replaced, along with new concessions spots and upper-level offices and support space for Southwest’s growing operation. It includes an outdoor patio on the end cap with fire pits and a view of the apron where commuter airlines, operating out of a new ground facility, will park their smaller jets.

The airline will begin using the new gates by June, and plans call for it to loan some of its older C gates to other airlines temporarily as DIA shuffles several of them around this year.

southwest leased up the new gates in early 2020, calling dibs on the entire expansion on its concourse. Meanwhile, United snapped up nearly two dozen new gates being built on concourses A and B.

Major Michael B. Hancock and DIA...

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Mayor Michael B. Hancock and DIA CEO Phillip Washington lead a ribbon cutting during a ceremony to unveil the new C concourse addition at Denver International Airport on Thursday, May 5, 2022.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said about the airport’s dominant airlines: “Even in the midst of the pandemic, they were clear with us that Denver International Airport will continue to be the focal point of their growth. They said it pre-pandemic, and they reaffirmed it … as we get through this pandemic.”

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