DIA traffic down 51% in 2020 as pandemic deals blow to aviation industry

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DENVER — The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to many industries, and aviation is one of the hardest hit. Total passenger traffic at Denver International Airport dropped 51% in 2020 compared to 2019. DIA saw approximately 33.7 million passengers in 2020, a number not seen since 1997.

Passenger traffic at DIA has been on a record-breaking roll for the last six consecutive years, making the slowdown in 2020 seem like a sudden ground stop. But airport officials are optimistic about the future.

Officials say DIA’s traffic has rebounded better than predicted and is above the national average. The airport is expected to finish the year as the third-busiest airport in the United States, behind Atlanta’s Hartfield and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and in the top 10 busiest airports in the world.

Throughout the summer, DIA was often the number-one ranked airport in the U.S. for TSA throughput, and Denver emerged as the top airport for year-over-year seat capacity retention, according to a DIA news release Monday.

Mail, freight and cargo operations were consistently the bright spot for 2020. The 667 million pounds of cargo transported during the year was only a slight decrease of 1.6% from 2019. Volume on all-cargo carriers increased by 8% for the year, while volume carried by passenger carriers declined by 29%.