Denver International Airport


Denver International Airport (DIA) is believed to be the biggest international airport in the United States and second largest airport in the world. The strategic positioning of Denver has ensured that a large number of domestic and international flights touch down at DIA. It also happens to be the eleventh busiest airport in the world, catering to the travelling needs of over 51 million passengers. This airport was formally declared opened in February 1995 at a total outlay of nearly $4.8 billion. “DIA, located in Denver, Colorado some miles northeast of the city center, is physically the largest airport in the United States of America and the largest public works project in American history, covering an area of 53 square miles. Its construction cost of nearly five billion dollars was financed by bond issues.” (Sekicho). Since that time it has catered to the travelling needs of both low cost airlines (LCA) and also large aircraft corporations.

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It is seen that earlier, Stapleton airport used to cater to the airline needs of Denver. However, Stapleton airport did not have ample gate space to cater to the heavy traffic of passengers and cargo, necessitating a larger and more spacious airport. Moreover, Denver is susceptible to large snowy weather and heavy winds that could disrupt traffic for long hours. Stapleton did not have the necessary infrastructure to deal with such acute weather uncertainties. Thus, it became necessary to build a new airport that could minimise inconveniences caused due to bad weather and also have a larger number of concourses to deal with heavy passenger and cargo traffic in this city and country. It has five spacious runways that could cater to the demands of air passengers in any weather, but the main aspect left unanswered is how aircraft could take off, or land in snowy, or bad weather, and more importantly, how passengers could be negotiated into, and out of aircraft during blizzards.


However, it is seen that DIA has a strong infrastructural facility that could cater to any eventuality in the ground, or on air. “Denver International Airport is currently the fifth busiest airport in the United States and the 11th busiest in the world. DIA averaged 1,670 flights daily (arrivals and departures) and served a total of 49.8 million passengers, an increase of 5.4 percent over 2006.“ (Traffic Statistics Financials & Statistics).

The fact that Denver is centrally positioned in the geographical structure of the US makes it equally distant, by air, from and to, all parts of the United States. This central location has, to a large extent been responsible for the growth, development and prosperity of this country.

American Airline Deregulation Act 1978

It is also now necessary to consider the impact of the American Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 to get a clearer picture of the airline industry. Following the deregulation, all airlines company had to gear themselves up for open market competition. For large airlines corporations the Act signalled the end of good days when they could virtually monopolise air travelling and its various ramifications. They now began to feel the pressures of competition, especially in the area of airfares, from smaller private competitors, and were constrained to reduce prices to stay on in business.

Overview of Stapleton

As far as Denver town was concerned, Stapleton served as an airport with limited capacity. This was exasperated during bad weather when huge losses in terms of lost incomes of nearly $100 million in terms of cancelled flights, alternate routing, delays and rescheduling of flights, and added costs on account of staff overtime and overnight hotel stay for stranded passengers added to Stapleton’s woes. Flight delays in Stapleton caused delays all around major airlines, and this was compounded by the fact that the nearest airport from Denver was nearly 500 miles away, leaving stranded passengers, without much options to choose from. Thus, it was decided that the new airport would be built and opened as per schedule. However, due to bottlenecks it was delayed by over two years, and the budget was also overrun substantially. The main idea was that Denver airport would be seen as a separate profit center generating its own incomes and taking care of its own expenses, without outside support. Further, ”since airport revenue is generated from cargo operations as well as passenger activities.”, substantial revenue generation was also envisaged from the project. (Kerzner, 730).

Maps and Directions: Area Routes

The original design of DIA was to be a careful blend of aesthetic as well as functional use. A large part of the investments were used to build an overhead fiberglass dome designed in white, to remind travellers of the snow capped Rocky Mountains. Steel cables, of the kind used in Brooklyn Bridge was also used to build the over bridge connecting terminal with Concourse A. In effect the idea was to attract a lot many tourists, not necessarily air travellers to the site and make it one of the tourist attractions in Denver country.

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Baggage System

Now, coming to the functional part, it is seen that the baggage system instituted to reduce passenger waiting time could not become functional. It began functioning as separate systems for each terminal. It is necessary to know about the DCV because this is a unique feature of DIA’s operations. It is seen that the major airlines using Denver airport were United Airlines and Continental, who together accounted for nearly 80% of the business in this airport. Post deregularisation, Continental bottom line was severely affected by recessionary markets with the result that both UA and Continental did not participate in the new airlines project, even though they were the main contenders and users of the airport infrastructure. The bone of contention came with $200 million investment in destination coded vehicle (DCV) baggage system which was computer aided and designed to transfer baggage quickly, without passengers having to wait for endless hours to retrieve the baggage. This added more significance since the lounges were very distant from the terminal. “The system would contain 400 fiberglass carts, each carrying a single suitcase through 22 miles of steel tracks.” (Kerzner, 734). However the sheer complicity of managing the vast software network associated with DVC resulted in the undue delay in the project which could be completed only by 1995. However, it is seen that had the baggage retrieval system become fully operational, it would have eased baggage traffic issues considerably. It is often seen that the baggage arrives even before the passengers do, which is of great assistance to all travellers and also the ground staff engaged in loading and unloading baggage. At this point it is necessary to know how the unique DCV is done. It is seen that the programmed software in the computer takes care of all the decisions regarding the movement of the baggage along its circuitous and often long routes. There are computer checkpoints that check the terminals and direct the tracks so that it is ensured that baggage reach their correct destinations.

In the first place, tags are placed on the baggage which contains all the relevant information needed; bar codes are also placed on the baggage and they are next scanned in order to know their exact position at any future point of time. They are next fed into conveyor belts to begin their journey. Thus scanned baggage can be tracked through computers at any time or point. Once the bags reach the end of the conveyor at the end of one stage, they are tipped onto another conveyor which holds DCV’s. The DCV’s by far, form the most important constituent of the system and it is designed to move the baggage to the ramp gate; DCV’s are required since there is a long distance from the passenger terminal to the main airport terminal. The DCV is a unique cart of wheels, which uses passive radio frequency that sounds a unique number for differentiation purposes. It negotiates on tracks using “linear induction motors.” (Nice). It is seen that two electro-magnets are placed, one on the track and one on the base of the cart. The motor induces movement of the magnetic field on the track and the magnet in DCV is drawn towards it. It is also seen that the metal base suspends from the base of DCV and rides between the linear inductions at a distance of 15 metres. Each time the metal plate meets the motor, it receives a magnetic charge which propels it to maintain velocity of movement. It is seen that the container in the DCV is placed on a pivot and is locked in the container so that the baggage could not jump out of the tub.

Loading: Once the DCV comes to the loading area, a bar on the track is raised which sets off the lever and the DCV comes to a flat position, in order to facilitate loading.. The empty DVC is in front of the loading conveyor, which then drops the baggage onto the moving DCV, assisted by optical devices which know minutely where the exact position of the DCV vis-à-vis the conveyor is located to facilitate a smooth and easy transfer of baggage from the conveyor to the DCV.

Unloading: During unloading, a lever on the DCV controls the tub in order to slant it down, and thus it dumps the baggage on to the section of the conveyor that is moving across the loading bay. The DCV unloads onto the conveyor in one smooth action, and after the baggage is deposited, the bar is retracted.

“After the bags are loaded into carts or containers, they are brought the short distance to the plane and loaded. Some planes are bulk loaded, meaning the bags are brought up one-by-one on a conveyor and placed into shelves in the cargo hold. Other planes are container loaded, meaning that special containers are loaded on the ground and then placed into the plane.” (Nice).

Solar energy systems at DIA

It is seen that during February 2008, work has commenced for onsite 2 MW solar energy system which, upon completion, would be capable of providing 3.5KWH of energy, rendering substantial savings on opportunity costs of conventional energies to the tune of $5 million of ‘carbon emissions’ into the atmosphere. (Denver International Airport).


It is seen that DIA supports free Wi-Fi, (Wireless Fidelity) as haunts to attract and retain air travellers as well as visitors and tourists, in bid to provide service or business utilities in given segments. It also houses payable internet cafes where access to internet and games could be made available. All these are designed to offer a wide range of services for the travelling public and also build a good brand image for DIA which could serve well in future years.

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Future of DIA

It is seen that the promoters and designers of DIA, during its designing stage had also kept wide options for the future of this large airport. The following benefits do accrue to DIA in the future:

Expandable terminals which could be built in future depending upon future air traffic in this region.
Independent two concourses could be built to further facilitate movements of aircrafts and smoothen aircraft landings and takeoffs.
There is provision for making additional runways in future.
This airport could develop capability to cater to total passenger traffic of around 110 million from the present 50 million.

Although built under controversial circumstances, DIA has proved that it could develop into a major hub for US airlines industry, since a majority of players, big and small, are making use of this airport for furthering their business, both in terms of passengers and cargo movements. It is believed that in the times to come, its strategic location could ensure that, besides being the largest in terms of area, it could also become the best airports in the US.

Works Cited

Denver International Airport. 2009. Web.

Kerzner, Harold. Advanced Project Management. 2003. Web.

Maps and Directions: Area Routes. Denver International Airport.2009. Web.

Nice, Karim. How Baggage Handling Works: How is a DCV Propelled. How Stuff Works. 2009. Web.

Nice, Karim. How Baggage Handling Works: Loading the Plane. How Stuff Works. 2009.Web.

Sekicho. Denver International Airport. Everything. 2002. Web.

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Traffic Statistics Financials & Statistics. Business Center. 2009. Web.

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