Denver International Airport ended 2021 as the world’s third-busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic as lagging international travel boosted several U.S. airports’ rankings.
DIA’s position in the annual list released Monday by the Airports Council International trade group — which held from mid-year trends publicized by airport officials — was up from 8th place in 2020, the first year of the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, DIA’s global ranking was 16th and its domestic ranking was fifth.
Last year, on the global stage, the 58.8 million passengers who traveled through DIA trailed only Dallas-Fort Worth (62.5 million) and Atlanta (75.7 million).
The top 10 list was dominated by U.S. airports — also including Chicago-O’Hare, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Orlando and Las Vegas — with Chinese airports in spots No. 8 and 9. ACI cited strong domestic travel as a driving factor as usually top-ranked airports in Europe and Asia struggled with slower-recovering international traffic.
Even within the United States, DIA’s position as a connecting hub has accelerated its recovery relative to other airports, allowing it to leap-frog Chicago and Los Angeles.
DIA CEO Phil Washington said recently that the airport’s passenger total in February edged out the same month in 2019, the first time that has happened since the pandemic began. However, traffic in January was down 13% compared to three years earlier due to the impact of COVID-19 case surges caused by the omicron variant, according to a DIA news release.
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