Sunday, June 28, 2009

Denver International Airport

Today was one of comings and goings to Denver International Airport for the family. The lovely spouse and I took my mother-in-law to the airport for her flight back home after a two-week visit in Colorado. In addition, my middle son and daughter-in-law returned from a honeymoon trip to San Francisco.

Of all the major airports around the country, Denver's is one of my favorites. It is new, modern, and easy to get around in. Locals refer to it by it's initials...D-I-A...even though its airport code is DEN, same as the old Stapleton International used to be. Situated out on the high plains northeast of the main part of the city, Denver International is easily seen for miles. The unique suspended peaks of the tent-like roof over the main terminal echo the majestic Rocky Mountains west of the airport.

D-I-A has not been without controversy. A project championed by former mayor (and later Secretary of Transportation) Federico Peña, the airport was known for its automated, state-of-the-art baggage handling system that cost gazillions of dollars and never worked right. That system was finally scrapped in the last year or so and replaced by the "tug and cart" system used at every other airport. The automated system was famous for losing and/or mutilating luggage in its care. Today D-I-A operates with great efficiency.

While it is much better equipped to handle adverse weather conditions that can occur on Colorado's prairie, no airport is "weatherproof". That lesson was learned a few years ago when a major blizzard blocked Peña Boulevard, the main freeway for access and egress to and from the airport. While people were trapped in their cars and snow plows were unable to keep the airport open, we saw what the priorities were. Somehow a cadre of snowplows were able to get the Denver Broncos busses to D-I-A so that Denver's NFL players could make it to their game.

In any case, once most of the bugs were worked out, Denver International has turned out to be a great airport. A guard at the airport told me today there are plans for future expansion to add a second main terminal just like the existing one, along with three more concourses. Even during a recession, D-I-A managed to add 2.8 percent to its traffic and have a 2 percent revenue gain in 2008. It is a major hub for both Frontier and United Airlines, as well as a major presence for Southwest since its return to the city a couple of years ago.

The only bad incident in the airport's history so far was last December, when a Continental jet bound for Houston ran off of a runway while trying to take off. Luckily it missed a fire station beside the runway and all passengers and crew escaped from the broken and charred wreckage alive.

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