How Denver International Airport became one of the fastest growing airports

How Denver International Airport became one of the fastest-growing airports in the world

Last year was the busiest year on record at Denver International Airport.

While airline stocks have not yet fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels, passengers have returned in droves — and millions of them are flying through the Colorado hub.

“We will finish 2023 with approximately 78 million passengers per year, well above our forecast,” said Phil Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport. “So that was a huge growth.”

The airport, known to Colorado locals as DIA, opened in 1995. It was originally designed to handle 50 million passengers per year, but according to DIA estimates, this number is expected to reach more than 100 million passengers per year by 2027.

OAG, a global travel data provider, said Denver rose from the 21st busiest airport in the world in 2019 to the sixth in 2023.

According to DIA, United Airlines is Denver's largest operator with a 46.7% market share, followed by Southwest at 30.7% and Frontier Airlines at 9.7%.

The midcontinent airport has become United's busiest hub. The company recently invested nearly $1 billion in Denver to add more gates, flights and destinations and opened the largest lounge in its network.

“About 60% of our customers fly from other locations. Forty percent of our customers come from Denver, and it is a rapidly growing city,” said Jonna McGrath, vice president of Denver Airport Operations for United Airlines. “We want to grow to around 650 flights per day by 2030.”

CNBC took a behind-the-scenes look at United's Denver operations and examined how the airport and airline plan to keep up with demand.

Watch the video to learn more.