DENVER — Denver International Airport is celebrating a major milestone as Phase 1 of the Great Hall Project is finally complete.
“That will help accommodate the huge volume and increase in passengers,” said DIA’s new chief executive officer, Phil Washington.
Phase 1 includes new, high-tech ticket counters and kiosks for both United and Southwest airlines, allowing passengers to tag and drop their own bags without ever interacting with a ticket agent.
But the Phase 1 opening of the Great Hall didn’t come without a great deal of pain for air travelers.
“You have to be willing to read the signs and ask questions,” said air traveler Gayle Ryan.
“You just have to pay attention and know where you’re going,” said air traveler Robyn Finch.
Phase 1’s completion is nearly two years behind schedule. This first phase was a turbulent ride, including DIA firing the original contractor in 2019 with the project just 25 percent complete. The project then stalled out for months as DIA looked for a new contractor, ultimately settling on Greeley-based Hensel Phelps Construction.
Hensel Phelps took a new contract and completed the work millions under budget and ahead of the new schedule.
“This was absolutely very turbulent,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
A turbulent ride that still includes at least two more phases and years of additional detours in the main terminal.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Washington said. “There’s no sugar-coating that.”
The opening also comes amid news that DIA was the third busiest airport in the world the first half of 2021.
Phase 1 does not include any security updates and doesn’t address a critical labor shortage, which could signal trouble ahead for the holidays.
“Where are the people who once made the luggage show up sooner than an hour and 37 minutes?” Hancock said. “You know, where are the folks who used to work at TSA? We need to get those people back to work.”