For most of us, flying commercial is inevitable—which, in the post-9/11 era, often means sacrificing our time, dignity, and sanity. But here’s the thing: We’re partly to blame. Nearly 15 years after flying changed forever, we still haven’t fully adapted. Fortunately for Coloradans, Denver International Airport has recently begun implementing some changes that could make air travel to and from the Mile High City more tolerable. Of course, that’s only if you’re willing to rework your travel routine and revise your expectations. Lean back, relax, and let us show you how.
1. Give Yourself Time— Lots And Lots Of It
Long gone are the days when you could arrive at airport parking and be at the gate in 30 minutes or less. (For those who’ve been living under a rock, those days have been gone for 15 years.) So let’s get with the program. You should be looking at DIA’s white-peaked ceiling—from inside the terminal—two hours before your flight’s departure time. And we’re not just talking about international flights; we’re talking all flights. Yes, we know: You have a job and the kids have school and you didn’t have time to pack last night and you just had to run one last errand and there was traffic on I-70 and…we get it. But we need to give in to the idea that flying someplace takes more time than we’d like it to. And we all need to start planning better for that actuality. Ask anyone who spends time at DIA—pilots, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel, airport administrators—and they’ll tell you giving yourself two hours of lead time not only releases the pressure from this stress-filled situation (e.g., you’ll be less ready to cold-cock the guy in front of you in the security line who forgot about that 32-ounce Gatorade in his backpack) but also allows you to actually savor some downtime—take in the view, quaff a beer, grab some food, eyeball some art. You know, enjoy the journey a little.
2. Understand The Magnitude
Managed by the City and County of Denver, DIA is much more than an airport: It’s a small city. And like all cities, the everyday operations that must occur to keep it and its “citizens” functioning are more complicated than you might imagine. Knowing this information won’t get you to your gate faster, but understanding often leads to appreciation. Here, a by-the-numbers look at the enormity of DIA.
53.4 million travelers who moved through DIA in 2014—an all-time record—making it the fifth-busiest airport in the country (17th in the world).
4 Fire stations located on airport property.
70 Percentage of de-icing fluid—aka propylene glycol—DIA captures and recycles at its on-site plant.
300 Lane miles of roads and runways maintained by DIA.
4 wildlife biologists who work at DIA to protect aircraft and animals from each other; the team trapped and relocated about 150 raptors (mostly hawks, owls, and eagles) in 2015.
40,000 parking spaces on airport property, many of which are served by shuttles and all of which come with free services like jump starts, vehicle finding, and assistance with keys locked inside a car.
109 gates with passenger loading bridges.
96 Aircraft arrivals that can be accommodated per hour at DIA.
76 Revenue-generating oil wells on DIA property.
53 Square miles of property owned by DIA, making it the largest airport in physical size in North America.
16,000 Feet, in length, of DIA’s 16R/34L runway; as the longest commercial runway in North America, it can accommodate the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747.
35,000 Approximate number of people who work at DIA, either for the airport, the airlines, or as contractors or subcontractors.
$322 million Amount, in gross sales, taken in by dining and retail establishments at DIA in 2014.
1,500 Flights that come in and out of DIA each day.
1.5 million Square feet of space in the Jeppesen Terminal.
—Embedded image courtesy of iStock
3. Be Ready for Security
According to TSA, the average security wait time during peak hours at DIA is 15 to 20 minutes.
We’ve all been there: Your bag gets whisked off the conveyor belt by a gloved TSA agent, who gives you a look that undeniably says, Just another idiot in an unending line of idiots. You roll your eyes and look at your watch. You’re absolutely certain there’s nothing in your bag that warrants such a time-sucking intrusion—until the uniformed officer slips your Leatherman multi-tool, complete with a small knife, out of a side pocket. Damn.
“Security is a partnership,” says TSA spokesperson Carrie Harmon. “Travelers can help by arriving at the airport prepared to go through the screening process. Every time our officers have to conduct additional procedures, such as searching a bag for prohibited items, it not only takes more time for that individual passenger, but it also slows the process for those standing in line behind him.” You’ll want to protest; you’ll want to shout that TSA’s rules and regulations are confusing, different at every airport, and seemingly at the whim of whichever inspector you happen to encounter. In point of fact, you’re correct. Well, mostly correct. The number one and two prohibited items most commonly found by TSA at security checkpoints are knives and liquids. The rules on these two things are not confusing, folks. First, sharp objects in carry-on bags are a general no-no. And second, you may carry one quart-size zip-top bag filled with containers that each carry 3.4 ounces or less of liquid, gel, paste, or aerosol. (There are some exceptions for medications and child nourishments.) As far as security protocols varying from airport to airport…they do. And that’s intentional. All passengers and bags are screened to the same standards, but methods can differ. “TSA incorporates elements of variability to increase security and help guard against those who might want to try to game the system,” Harmon explains. TSA agents can also use their judgment when it comes to suspicious carry-on items—so don’t be surprised if an item you thought was kosher gets eighty-sixed. If you’re not sure about an item when you’re filling your suitcase, check out the “When I fly can I bring my…” search function in the upper right-hand corner of tsa.gov. Or see our breakdown (at right) of questionable items Coloradans are likely to carry.
Marijuana: TSA agents do not actively search for pot or other drugs, but because TSA is governed by the federal government, which still considers weed illegal, agents will refer any person found with pot to local law enforcement. (At DIA, officials are generally asking travelers found with small amounts of marijuana to simply throw it away.)
Lighter: TSA doesn’t prohibit standard lighters in carry-on or checked baggage; however, torch and micro-lighters are forbidden in both.
Tent: TSA suggests placing most camping equipment— especially anything with pointy or sharp pieces, like poles or stakes—in your checked luggage.
Fishing Rod: We’re not sure how this differs from a tent pole, but according to TSA, rods are A-OK so long as they’ll fit in your airline’s overhead bin.
Matches: “Strike anywhere” matches are off-limits in carry-on or checked baggage, but one book of safety matches will slide through security in your carry-on bag, no problem.
Hockey Skates: Sharp? Yes. Pointy? Kinda. But according to security officials, your blades are safe to place under the seat in front of you.
Ice Axe: Along with sabers and swords—we’re not joking—ice axes must be stowed in your checked baggage.
Hiking Or Skiing Poles: Apparently these items fall under the same umbrella as pool cues, baseball bats, and golf clubs—all of which can be used as bludgeons and are therefore relegated to the cargo hold. CO2 Cartridges (for inflating bicycle tubes): Except for personal medical oxygen cylinders, compressed gas cartridges are not allowed on planes.
4. Choose Parking Wisely
The best advice for parking at DIA is not to do it at all. But if your best friend or neighbor or mom won’t drop you off, we’ve broken down the least objectionable choices based on travelers’ needs. Find which option below sounds like you.
“I’m On A Budget”
DIA’s Pikes Peak lot is the closest to the terminal, cheapest, and arguably fastest shuttle-parking option. At a flat $8 a day (all fees and taxes are included) and with a no-reservations-needed policy, Pikes Peak is reliable and fairly hassle free.
The Downside: During peak travel times, the lot can fill up, and even though they say shuttles leave for the terminal every 10 minutes, it’s more like 15 to 20 in our experience.
If all you want is a spot saved just for you and a super-short walk to the terminal, there’s no better option than reserved parking in either the Garage East (Level 1, rows A and B) or the Garage West (Level 1, rows K, L, and M). Reservations can be made up to a year in advance.
The Downside: Garage parking is already $24 per day; reserving a spot adds $4 a day to that sky-high price.
Although WallyPark, the only independent parking company on DIA property, has a self-park option that we love (we think it rivals Pikes Peak for time, but not for price), its uncovered valet park option is worth the $17.95 per day for ease and peace of mind. Our favorite part: coming home during the winter, when WallyPark’s valets scrape the snow from your car, turn on the heat, transport your luggage from the shuttle to your trunk, and leave bottled water in the cup holders.
The Downside: While WallyPark is Johnny-on-the-spot about getting you to the airport, its shuttles are sometimes a little MIA when you’re trying to get back to the lot.
Located off I-70 just beyond Peña Boulevard, DIA Park offers rates for 14-day ($150 for covered parking) and monthly ($225 covered; $150 uncovered) stays. Included in the fee is either the car-buddy valet service—a DIA Park driver shuttles you in your car to the terminal and then returns your car to the lot—or the express car service, in which you park your car at DIA Park and then a driver takes you in a different vehicle to DIA. For an extra $30, a DIA Park valet will meet you at the departure area and take your car to the lot, which means you don’t have to stop at DIA Park at all.
The Downside: You have to prepay to get the advertised rates, and reservations are required.
—Embedded images courtesy of Matt Nager; Shutterstock
5. Stay the Night
For all the upsides to DIA (yes, there are some), its distance from, well, anything is not one of them. Rising out of the Eastern Plains about 25 miles from downtown Denver, DIA is a haul for everyone except maybe those living in Green Valley Ranch. The extra miles might not be such a big deal when you have a 1 p.m. departure, but a 6:30 a.m. boarding time can mean setting your alarm for a 3:30 a.m. wake-up. Cut out the bleary-eyed, 45-minute morning drive by making a reservation for a standard guest room (starting at $189) at the two-month-old Westin Denver International Airport for the night before your flight. The Westin DIA is the only hotel in the world that sits fewer than 200 feet from an airport’s main terminal. (Don’t worry, the hotel is amazingly soundproofed.) Which means that in addition to enjoying a soak in the 11th-floor hot tub, grabbing a cocktail at the hotel’s sleek Grill & Vine, and enjoying stunning views of the mountains from your white-comforter-draped bed, you can wake up at a less ungodly hour and be in the TSA line tout de suite.
Another Brilliant Reason To Stay At The Westin DIA
To avoid acute mountain sickness, flatlanders really should spend one night acclimating at a moderate elevation (5,431 feet should do the trick) before heading to the high country. Yes, your lowlander friends and family will undoubtedly consider staying the night in LoDo—where the craft beer flows like water—until you wisely tell them how convenient the Westin will begin to look when they’re weighed down with skis and boots and poles and whatever else they might be carrying. Plus, it’s a cinch to rent a car near the airport, pack it up in the hotel’s first-floor loading/valet area, and then hit I-70.
If price is no object, you can valet your car at the Westin for $33 a day.
6. Ride The (Upcoming) Commuter Rail
The first whispers about a rail line from downtown Denver to DIA began in 1997—just two years after DIA opened. Almost 19 years later, the tracks have been laid, rail cars with room for baggage have been purchased, and, come April 22, riders will be able to travel at a top speed of 79 mph (24 mph faster than light rail) between Union Station and DIA. FasTracks’ new University of Colorado A Line will be especially welcomed by travelers who want to spend time downtown without having to take a $70 taxi ride. Denverites, who’ve long yearned for a more convenient, reliable, and potentially less expensive way to access DIA, will also appreciate the line. But it won’t be a golden ticket for everyone. Here’s what you need to know to determine if the A Line will work for you.
You Should Know: A ticket to or from DIA—no matter how many RTD zones you cross on light rail and/or commuter rail—is $9 one way per person.
Then Consider This: You’re looking at $18 per person for a round-trip journey on the A Line. Depending on the number of people in your family and the number of days you’ll be away, the cost of using the A Line could be significantly more expensive than taking a taxi or parking at the airport.
You Should Know: A commuter train is slated to arrive at each station along the A Line every 15 minutes from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and every 30 minutes from 3:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. and from 6:30 p.m. to close. (FYI: Schedules can vary depending on the day of the week.)
Then Consider This: If the reliability of light rail extends to commuter rail, you should be able to count on the train to get you to DIA without hiccups. The same cannot be said of driving to the airport along I-70 and Peña Boulevard. In 2014, there were 1,364 vehicle accidents along I-70 and on or near Peña Boulevard between I-25 and DIA. That’s an average of almost four accidents a day.
You Should Know: RTD estimates the trip from Union Station to DIA will take about 37 minutes, including stops.
Then Consider This: You’ll have to add time to that 37 minutes depending on how you plan to access the A Line. Multiple light-rail lines (E, C, and W) and new commuter lines (B and G) will intersect the A Line at Union Station; the upcoming R Line will connect at Peoria Station.
You Should Know: The six stations along the A Line between Union Station and DIA are Park-n-Rides. Together these stations offer 4,329 parking spots and quick access to the A Line.
Then Consider This: Park-n-Ride parking is free for the first 24 hours. After that, parking costs $2 per day if you are a resident of the eight-county RTD district. If you live outside the metro area, parking—including the first 24 hours—is $4 per day.
It’s just $4.50 for seniors and people with disabilities.
—Embedded images courtesy of The Westin DIA; Denver International Airport
7. Take In The Art
Thanks to the City and County of Denver’s “one percent for art” ordinance, DIA has one of the most extensive art programs of any airport in the world. Leo Tanguma’s controversial murals and the big, blue devil-mustang may be the best-known installations, but they represent only a fraction of DIA’s eye candy. Even if you don’t seek out the airport’s creative side (although we suggest you do), look for these favorites.
“Kinetic Light air Curtain”
By Antonette Rosato and William Maxwell
Location: Passenger train tunnel
Contrary to popular belief, the 5,280 stainless-steel propellers adhered to the walls inside the passenger train tunnels do not help with air flow or train propulsion—they’re art.
By Patrick Marold
Location: Commuter train platform area
This $2 million large-scale installation uses 236 beetle-kill spruce logs from southern Colorado to create constantly changing patterns of sunlight and shadow.
“Field of Air”
By Ned Kahn
Location: Plaza between DIA and the Westin hotel
Inspired by the movement of prairie grasses, artist Ned Kahn erected this large, wind-triggered sculpture out of thousands of “blades” made from brushed aluminum.
By Buster Simpson and Sherry Wiggins
Location: Peña Boulevard, near the solar farm
This 1,000-foot-long installation—replete with agricultural implements—reminds the viewer that until the airport came along, this expanse was high prairie and farming land.
By Terry Allen
Location: East and West baggage claims
Composed of two gargoyle statues sitting in suitcases, this is one of the more misunderstood works at DIA. Historically, gargoyles were protectors of buildings; in this case, they are supposed to ensure bags arrive unharmed.
By Patty Ortiz
Location: Jeppesen Terminal escalator bay and passenger arrival area
Fanciful and functional, these paper-airplane-style sculptures guide travelers from the train to the escalators and into the Great Hall.
This month through April, Colorado artist Patricia Aaron’s Passport—an exhibit of abstract beeswax, ink, and pigment paintings that take inspiration from the artist’s travels—will be on display in the Terminal Gallery, located on Level 5 on the west side of the Jeppesen Terminal.
8. Find The Best Seats In The House
For viewing the mountains…
Settle into the chairs on the south end of the Jeppesen Terminal on Level 6 for a slice of solitude and a huge picture window.
Grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks—just past gate 60 on Concourse B—and enjoy the view from the seats along the bridge.
From the seats at the far west end of Concourse C, one can see all the way from Pikes Peak to Longs Peak on a clear day.
For catching some shut-eye…
Stretch out on the floor on the dimly lit mezzanine level of Concourse A, near the Mesa Verde Bar & Grill.
There’s plenty of floor space—as well as some additional seating that is usually empty—on the mezzanine level above Dazbog Coffee on Concourse C.
For getting some work done…
On the mezzanine level of Concourse B—between Woody Creek Bakery & Café and Victoria’s Secret—is a bank of comfy chairs with outlets for charging phones and laptops. Concourse A’s Blue Sky Bar has high-top bar seating along the far window complete with mobile device charging stations.
For working out the kinks…
Newly opened on Concourses A and C, XpresSpa offers 20-minute neck and back chair massages for $40; trust us, it’s worth the cash.
For lighting up…
The only place inside the entire airport to grab a smoke break is in the center core of Concourse C, in the Smokin’ Bear Lodge Smoking Lounge.
For watching a game…
If you can’t find your team on one of Aviator’s Sports Bar & Bar-B-Que’s flat-screens (located on the mezzanine level of Concourse B), then you’re watching the wrong game.
—Embedded images courtesy of Denver International Airport
9. Eat Like A Local
Until about five years ago, the dining scene at DIA could’ve been mistaken for a food court at a hundred other airports nationwide. Not anymore. “There’s been a deliberate shift in the way we’re doing things,” says Heath Montgomery, spokesperson for DIA. “We’ve surveyed passengers about their needs and the brands they like. We’re making smarter decisions and blending local brands with our national brands.” Seeing Colorado-based companies at DIA is a welcome change, one that you should take advantage of no matter what craving you’re looking to satiate.
Coffee: Happy Cakes Café
Location: Concourse C, near gate C24
Order This: An Allegro Coffee light roast and a chocolate and salted caramel cupcake
Breakfast: Modern Market
Location: Concourse B, center core; Concourse C, near gate C28
Order This: Eggs and green chile scramble
Brunch: Root Down
Location: Concourse C, center core
Order This: A Bloody Mary and the pastrami hash Benedict with confit potatoes, poached eggs, arugula, and Russian hollandaise
Lunch: Tamales by La Casita
Location: Concourse C, center core
Order This: Two tamales (one pork, one cheese) smothered in red chile
Snack Time: Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs
Location: Concourse B, near gate B24
Order This: Jersey dog with bacon, spicy mustard, red onion, relish, and kraut
Happy Hour: New Belgium Hub
Location: Concourse B, past gate B60
Order This: Ranger IPA and 1554-infused cheese dip
Location: Concourse B, center core
Order This: #7 steak salad with USDA Prime tenderloin and creamy garlic dressing
Dessert: Etai’s Bakery Cafe
Location: Concourse B, near gate B22
Order This: Chocolate decadence cake
Nightcap: Coors Silver Bullet Sports Pub (Just Opened)
Location: Concourse C, near gate C27
Order This: Coors Banquet on draft
10. Appreciate What You Don’t See
It’s difficult to be grateful for things like efficient infrastructure and new technology—but, just so you know, DIA has both.
Runway Layout: For those without an aeronautical engineering degree, here’s something about airplanes you might not know: They take off into the wind. There’s a lot of confusing physics behind why, but the important thing is most airports are built to take advantage of prevailing headwinds. At the world’s busiest airport, in Atlanta, the wind typically blows from the west, which encouraged designers to plot all five runways at Hartsfield-Jackson in an east-west orientation. At DIA, however, the wind doesn’t always cooperate, a situation that compelled designers to lay four north-south runways and two east-west runways. “Our winds usually blow north-south,” Montgomery says. “But sometimes they don’t. Because of our runway layout, we can adjust operations with the wind.”
NextGeN: Stop us when we get to something that doesn’t sound good: shorter flights, smoother descents, better fuel economy, reduced airplane noise over residential areas. It all sounds pretty great, and because DIA has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on NextGen for the past six years, all of these improvements are coming to fruition. NextGen is the umbrella term for the FAA’s transformation of the National Airspace System. Basically, NextGen signifies an evolution from ground-based air traffic control to a satellite-based program. DIA has been one of the trial airports for many aspects of NextGen. In 2013, DIA was the first commercial airport to allow aircraft to fly more predictable, smoother approaches to reduce fuel consumption and to fly less frequently over residential areas. DIA was also the first airport to put into practice something called EoR, technology that allows multiple aircraft to fly shorter, more efficient, and simultaneous paths to parallel runways.
Aerobahn De-icing ManageR: We’ve always been big fans of the pink and green de-icing fluids that loosen winter’s grip on the aircraft we’re flying in. What we’ve never been fans of, however, is the time de-icing adds to our trips. DIA gets that. In 2014, the airport implemented the Aerobahn De-Icing Manager, a $425,000 computer program that aims to reduce wait times at the de-icing pads. The program should reduce airline delays by 2.6 minutes per aircraft during inclement weather.
—Embedded photos courtesy of Denver International Airport; Getty Images
11. Investigate The Conspiracy Theories For Yourself
Since the day DIA opened—a year behind schedule and wildly over budget—rumors have swirled that what we thought was built as a new airport for a growing city was actually a facade constructed to obscure more malevolent forces. The allegations—essentially that DIA is a secret headquarters for the New World Order—seem laughable at first, but…then…well…the coincidences begin to move the needle on the Creep-O-Meter.
Many bronze pictographs are inlaid in Jeppesen Terminal’s floors, but one catches the attention of conspiracy theorists: It looks like a mining cart carrying the letters Au Ag—the chemical symbols for gold and silver. Or, more ominously, the letters could be short-form for the sometimes-fatal hepatitis B virus’ Australia antigen (the real abbreviation for the antigen is HBsAg).
Two murals painted by Leo Tanguma (one is pictured below), both located in the terminal on Level 5, appear to some to represent a future of biological warfare, mass destruction and extinction, and a one-world government. Tanguma has said the murals are meant to illustrate the Earth’s children dreaming of peace and how the world will ultimately abandon war to be in harmony.
Located near the south TSA checkpoint, a dedication marker celebrates DIA’s opening. What’s interesting about the engraved language is that it includes mention of Freemason lodges and symbols and implies that something called the New World Airport Commission (officials say it was a group of local business and political leaders) was involved in the airport project.
The old Stapleton Airport’s runways ran parallel to each other and were too close together for safe landings, prompting designers to lay out DIA’s runways in a safer and more efficient pattern. From the air, though, it’s difficult not to agree with doomsayers that DIA’s footprint looks suspiciously like a swastika.
The original budget estimate for DIA—which was approved by voters in 1989—was $1.9 billion. The airport ultimately cost $4.8 billion, money that reportedly came from private investors and the federal government. Conspiracy theorists see the price tag—and construction delays—as proof there is more infrastructure than meets the eye.
A vast system of underground tunnels (officially built for an automated baggage system that never really worked and was eventually abandoned) and five buried buildings (which allegedly were incorrectly constructed and have never been used) are said to live beneath the airport. Conspiracy theorists say this is the bunker the New World Order will use during an apocalyptic event.
13. Play The Blame Game Correctly
Many of the service issues you experience at DIA are not within the airport’s control. If you’re going to get huffy, we suggest you gripe at the true offending party.
You’re Frustrated: Because it’s taking forever to get your checked luggage
You Should Be Ticked At: Your airline
Because: DIA furnishes the carousels, conveyor belts, and baggage tunnels for the airlines to manage luggage but doesn’t ever actually touch travelers’ bags. To be fair, DIA has a large footprint, which means that if your plane arrives at an outlying gate like C23, your bag must travel 1.25 miles to reach baggage claim.
You’re Frustrated: Because the security line is a bleeping mile long
You Should Be Ticked At: TSA—and maybe Congress
Because: Although TSA works with airports and airlines and tries to adjust staffing as necessary—especially during peak travel times—the total number of security officers nationwide is capped by Congress.
You’re Frustrated: Because your flight has been delayed or canceled
You Should Be Ticked At: Your airline or the FAA or Mother Nature
Because: Although DIA is responsible for providing safe infrastructure—e.g., snow-cleared runways—so that airlines can operate, airlines are responsible for managing their flight schedules, their planes’ equipment maintenance, and their pilots’ and flight attendants’ time requirements. The FAA can, at times, require airlines to adjust their schedules because of severe weather or air traffic control issues.
You’re Frustrated: Because you’ve been on the plane for an hour waiting on de-icing
You Should Be Ticked At: Your airline
Because: DIA provides the de-icing pads and fluid collection, but the airlines are responsible for de-icing their planes; they typically contract their de-icing services through one of five third-party providers currently working at the airport. (Our two cents? Sit back, relax, and let those guys take as long as they need to so your plane doesn’t fall out of the sky.)
—Embedded images courtesy of Denver International Airport; Matt Nager
14. Catch Up On Your Window Shopping
Try: Tattered Cover Book Store
For: a copy of People magazine (go ahead, you know you want to) and Isabel Allende’s new novel, The Japanese Lover.
Location: A, B, and C concourses’ center cores
Try: Bee Fruity & Nutty
For: a box of surprisingly delicious dried pineapple rings.
Location: Near gates B40 and C53
Try: Out West
For: a selection of shirts from Rockmount Ranchwear, one of Denver’s oldest and best-loved ranchwear outfitters.
Location: Concourse C, center core; Jeppesen Terminal, Level 5 West
Try: Colorado Limited
For: something emblazoned with the Colorado flag; we’re partial to the standard-issue Colorado flag socks.
Location: Near gate A29; B and C concourses’ center cores
Try: the Soap Shop
For: a bar of Mt. Evans Pine soap made with fir essential oil.
Location: Near gate A48
For: a gate-side purchase of local craft beer, wine, or spirits you can take with you for host gifts—or for, you know, when you get to your hotel.
Location: Concourse B, center core
15. Imagine A New Great Hall
When DIA was built, American air travel was experiencing its last few years of relative innocence. It was during this time that Fentress Architects imagined a white-peaked roof and grandiose terminal dubbed the Great Hall. But just six years after DIA opened, four hijacked planes altered the way the world would undertake air travel. The Great Hall had been conceived as a hub of retail, fine dining, and elegant lounging spaces with couches and no fewer than 50 live ficus trees. After 9/11, it was retrofitted to accommodate the TSA’s metal detectors and long lines of passengers. “The Great Hall is not a great experience right now,” says DIA’s Montgomery. “But with the Westin and commuter rail creating a new front door for DIA, we are in the process of reimagining the terminal.” Translation: The airport is entertaining proposals from developers to redesign the space. “We are planning to move the TSA checkpoints from their current locations to Level 6,” says DIA CEO Kim Day. “Then, under the tent, we can recapture the amazing public space the Great Hall once was.” We can’t wait.
—Embedded photo courtesy of Nick Merrick/Fentress Architects