Southwest Airlines wants to lease 16 more gates at Denver International Airport, meaning more flights to more places once construction is complete in 2022.
Denver City Council’s aviation committee gave its initial blessing for the deal Wednesday, clearing the runway for Southwest to take an even bigger share of the Denver market. With about 250 daily flights to 69 destinations daily, Southwest is DIA’s second-largest airline behind United Airlines, which inked a deal to add 24 gates last month.
DIA’s contract with Southwest would last through February 2035, an unusually long lease agreement for airport gates, said Steve Sisneros, managing director of airport affairs for the airline. He said Denver is the airline’s fastest-growing market in the company’s history.
“I cannot overstate that we are all in on Denver,” Sisneros said.
It’s unclear how much Southwest will pay the airport for the gates (and waiting room space) because the rates change yearly. The airline paid DIA about $100 million for its leased space in 2018, airport officials said, and that cost will grow with 16 additional gates.
The full city council must vote on the contract next month before it’s official. If it passes, Southwest would have a total of 40 gates in Concourse C in 2022.
DIA’s concourse expansion is part of a $1.5 billion project that will add more plane parking, more seating and, in Southwest’s case, an outdoor patio.
“It’s great plane-spotting, great views of the plains. It’s just really great,” said Gisela Shanahan, DIA’s chief financial officer.
New concourses will also feature more places to eat, drink and buy stuff at each of the airport’s three terminals.
“I’m surprised airports haven’t found a way to know if you’re boarding a plane with money still in your pocket,” Councilman Kevin Flynn joked at the committee hearing.
Passengers can expect more flights to current destinations, but also additional and unannounced destinations.