Traveling out of DIA this week? Here’s when the airport will be busiest — and a few tips to help you deal with crowds

Also, there are more parking spots available this year.
3 min. read
Travelers roll their luggage from the Westin Hotel into Denver International Airport, Thursday morning, Dec. 22, 2022.
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

With Denver International Airport (DIA) continuing to break passenger records -- and its ongoing infamous construction -- navigating it can be a challenge even during the quietest of times.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, airport officials said they expect more than 785,000 passengers, a nearly 13% increase in travelers compared to the same period last year -- something that could make your airport run this year slightly more hectic.

United Airlines, the largest airline operating out of DIA, also expects to have its busiest Thanksgiving travel season ever this year, with a similar 13% increase compared to last year. United said it has added travel capacity out of DIA to meet demand.

DIA's busiest days will be this Wednesday and Sunday, Nov. 26, so travelers should plan for extra time at the airport during that stretch of days. Overall, passenger traffic is expected to increase through Monday, Nov. 27.

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Here are some tips for navigating the airport.

For travelers with TSA PreCheck, DIA added four new lanes near the South Checkpoint near Baggage Claim 7. The airport also has PreCheck lanes at the North Checkpoint, and CLEAR at the North and South checkpoints.

People without TSA PreCheck or CLEAR can skip the security line by reserving a specific time slot up to three days before a flight. That program, DEN Reserve, can be booked online and accessed at A-Bridge.

Another new program, SkySquad, provides travelers with an assistant to help them navigate the airport, from baggage and ticketing all the way through to the gate and baggage claim at the destination. That program starts at $59.

Travelers can also check security wait times online.

Parking lots at the airport could fill up.

DIA recently completed construction on one of its lots, and will open up an additional 2,400 spots for the holiday. There are also two shuttle lots that cost $8 per day.

Travelers should also beware of rising car thefts at the airport. DIA recently increased security cameras and patrols of its lots in response to recent thefts.

The Colorado Auto Theft Prevention Authority also offers free catalytic converter protection kits and steering wheel locks, if you have time to grab one before your trip.

And when will all that construction end?

The short answer: not any time soon.

According to CEO Phil Washington, the airport is ahead of schedule, but the Great Hall construction will continue through 2028. The West security checkpoint will open in February, but that will be accompanied by the closure of the North checkpoint for further construction.

Even once all that is done, construction will continue into DIA far future: the airport announced earlier this year that it plans to expand the main terminal and add four new concourses and 100 more gates through 2045.

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