Denver Airport Handles Record Traffic In 2023 As Connecting Passengers Surge

Denver international airport

Denver International Airport.

Credit: JG Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

Connecting passengers drove passenger traffic at Denver International Airport (DEN) to record numbers in 2023 even as origin and destination (O&D) traffic remained at pre-pandemic levels.

DEN handled 77.8 million passengers in 2023, up 12.3% over 69.3 million in 2022, which had been the airport’s busiest year. “Every single month set an all-time record in terms of passenger traffic volume,” DEN says in a summary of its 2023 numbers. 

DEN was the third-busiest passenger airport in the world in 2022, according to Airports Council International (ACI) World, and the airport says it was on pace to retain that ranking in 2023 based on ACI preliminary figures for the first 10 months of the year.

“Although 2023 now also ranks as DEN’s busiest year ever in terms of O&D traffic, the growth was just 0.1% over 2019, the previous busiest year for O&D passengers,” DEN notes. “Connecting passengers propelled DEN’s extraordinary growth in 2023 on an increase of 35.7% as compared to 2019.”

DEN handled 4 million international passengers in 2023, up 21.5% year-over-year and the most ever for the airport. International passengers made up 5.2% of DEN’s traffic in 2023, up from 4.6% in 2019.

United Airlines carried 36 million passengers to and from DEN in 2023, its most ever at the airport, giving it a leading 46.8% market share. The Star Alliance carrier operates a hub at DEN.

Southwest Airlines held a second-place market share at 30.9% with 24 million passengers handled, its most ever from DEN. Denver-based ULCC Frontier Airlines was the airport’s third leading airline in 2023 with a 9.6% share, serving 7.5 million passengers, its most at the airport since 2019. 

Total cargo volume at DEN in 2023 stood at 680 million tons, down 5.9% from 2022, but 1.4% higher than 2019. Cargo carried in the bellies of passenger aircraft rose 8.1% year-over-year at DEN, while freighter volumes were down 10% year-over-year.

Meanwhile, DEN has unveiled a new “Premium Reserve Parking” service for passengers. For a $50 daily fee, passengers will be able to park in “prime locations” in garages with direct terminal access, “minimizing the time spent walking or waiting for shuttles,” according to DEN.

Passengers can reserve spaces up to 90 days or as little as 5 minutes before a flight via an app.

DEN CEO Phil Washington says the “seamless and efficient parking solution” will allow passengers “to focus on their trip without the added stress of finding parking.”

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.