Denver airport shoots to 7th in the world in passenger traffic

The pandemic significantly boosted Denver International Airport’s world standing as it grounded thousands of planes for much of 2020 and reshuffled the pecking order among major airports, according to new rankings out this week.

DIA ended the year with the 7th-highest passenger traffic, shooting up from a 16th-place ranking in 2019, Airports Council International’s preliminary data shows. That rise — to DIA’s highest ranking ever — came even as the airport recorded 51% fewer passengers in 2020, with traffic falling to 33.7 million from 69 million in 2019.

That decline shook out near the average among the top 10 airports, which together saw traffic drop nearly 46%, ACI says. Among all airports, the organization charted an average decline of nearly 65%.

DIA’s ranking improved during the pandemic year among U.S. airports, too, rising to third-busiest from fifth, behind Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth. DIA officials had expected its national ranking to increase when they released 2020 data in February, since Denver’s airport relies less heavily on international traffic than some larger airports.

In terms of takeoffs and landings, DIA’s standing rose more modestly in the international rankings, from fifth to fourth. It long has ranked higher for that metric than for passenger traffic; previously, its highest ranking for passengers had been 10th.