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FILE PHOTO: Travelers wait in line to go through the South Security Checkpoint on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colo. (Timothy Hurst/The Gazette)

Denver International Airport served more passengers in 2022 than ever. 

The 69,286,461 passenger level eclipsed the pre-pandemic yearly best in 2019 of 69,015,703 and marked a 17.8% increase from 2021, according to a news release. October was the busiest month of the year — and ever — with more than 6.5 million passengers.

That annual record came despite the fierce winter storm in December that wreaked havoc with travel and canceled thousands of flights. 

“It’s no surprise that 2022 was the busiest-ever year on record for DEN. The airport benefited from resilient passenger and cargo demand,” CEO Phil Washington said in a news release. “Additionally, ongoing investment by our airline partners provided the capacity to achieve this new record. We look forward to future growth in 2023 and beyond as we work toward achieving Vision 100 – 100 million passengers.”

International travel rebounded after the pandemic shutdown of 2020 and 2021 with more than 3.3 million — 74.7% above 2021 and 4.6% more than 2019. July ranks the busiest month for international passenger traffic at DIA.

Officials recently announced nonstop flights to Tokyo/Narita will resume March 4 for the first time in more than 1,000 days.

“Anytime we have more passengers, we need more employees at the airport,” said Laura Jackson, vice president of air service development and aviation research for Denver International Airport, at a recent South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce event. “It also means there’s more demand for travel to and from Denver, which benefits businesses in Denver [and] it benefits people who live here that are expanding their businesses to other places and using the airport to fly.”

“Our airport’s recovery in 2022 to pre-pandemic levels of passenger traffic is nothing short of extraordinary, but it exemplifies the importance of DEN as a national and international hub for air service,” Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “As the largest economic engine in the state, DEN continues to lead Denver and Colorado to new heights.”

DIA has been growing and changing with gate expansions, upgrades and new restaurants and retailers.

Last year, the airport added restaurants including Mercantile Dining & Provision and Voodoo Doughnut in concourse B and Einstein Bros. Bagels and Novo Coffee in concourse A. More restaurants are expected to open this year, according to a press release from FlyDenver. The airport was also awarded the 2022 Leading Airport Fleet award by ACT Expo for its sustainable fleet assets.

The Great Hall project is still under construction and is expected to be completed by 2028. 

Hansel Phelps continues construction of the new security checkpoints on Level 6, both the east and west side. The new level 6 west checkpoint is on schedule to be completed in Q1 2024, according to DIA. 

"Tremendous progress" has been made on the new triple escalators that will take screened passengers on Level 6 directly the train platforms. The main components of the 40-foot-long escalators were installed this year and will open in Q1 2024 

Denver Gazette Business Reporter Savannah Mehrtens contributed to this story.

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