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DIA ready for the holiday crush, but arctic blast throws wrinkle in travel plans

More than 400 flights canceled Thursday morning
Severe Weather Colorado
Posted at 12:12 PM, Dec 19, 2022

DENVER — The crush of holiday travelers moving through Denver International Airport has begun. But the arctic blast that gripped Colorado Thursday has thrown a wrinkle in those travel plans.

It's just a waiting game at DIA as more than 400 flights have already been canceled and at least 276 flights were delayed Thursday morning in one of the busiest travel days of the year. And parking is a challenge as DIA reported Thursday morning that all shuttle lots were at capacity.

"It's already stressful enough being the holiday season," said one DIA traveler, who traveled from Bozeman, Montana, and had been waiting at DIA for 13 hours for a flight to Nashville. "[We] can't rent a car to go back to Bozeman. There are no flights back to Bozeman, and no other flights to Nashville until Christmas Eve, Christmas [Day].

Elsewhere in the U.S., more than 1,400 flights had been canceled Thursday morning within, in or out of the U.S., according to the tracking site FlightAware.

DIA was anticipating more than 611,000 travelers to pass through TSA checkpoints between Monday, Dec. 19, and Tuesday of next week, an increase of 14.5% for the same period in 2021.

The busiest days of the travel period will be Thursday and Friday just as an arctic airmass moved into the area.


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DIA said Monday that it was too early to know how many flights would be impacted by Thursday’s blast of below-freezing temperatures. A spokesperson said they anticipate de-icing operations will be in place, but it’s up to the airlines whether they delay or cancel flights.

DIA reported Thursday morning that departing aircraft were being sprayed with deicing fluid to remove snow and ice.

On Tuesday, Delta Airlines issued a travel advisory for airports in the Atlantic, northeast, northwest mountain, and Pacific northwest regions.

On its website, United is waiving its change fee and any difference in fare on qualifying tickets for flights departing on or before Dec. 28 at many U.S. airports due to the winter weather.

Southwest issued a travel advisory for airports in the Midwest, including Denver, adding that those with qualifying tickets traveling Wednesday through Monday could rebook their flights "without paying any additional charge."

American Airlines said on its site that it is waiving change fees on qualifying tickets for those who plan to fly over the holidays at the 29 listed airports in the Northeast that could be affected by winter weather. Denver was not listed as one of the affected airports.

Thursday will be dangerously cold and breezy, with wind chills as low as -50 degrees across both the plains and mountains, according to the National Weather Service. Denver will see a high of only 2 degrees, with a low of -11 degrees.

Friday, that airmass will begin moving east and a warming trend will begin, but it will still be below freezing. Friday’s high in Denver is expected to be 20 degrees, with a low of -10 degrees.

Below is information released by DIA as to what to expect flying out of DEN in the next week:

Plan Ahead

  • You snow the drill - Check your flight status with your airline for up-to-date delay or cancellation information.
  • Arrive early. We're not elfin’ around, it's important to get to DEN at least two hours prior to boarding time.
  • DEN has three security checkpoints. Just like the North Pole, South Security is open 24 hours a day. North Security is open from 4 a.m.-7:45 p.m. and Bridge Security is open from approximately 4:30 a.m.- 5:45 p.m.
  • Sleigh it ain't so – TSA screening checkpoints are generally busiest early in the morning from about 5-10 a.m., and from 1-4 p.m.


Passengers are strongly encouraged to use the primary checkpoints for TSA PreCheck and standard screening as outlined below.

South Security Checkpoint: Open 24/7 as the primary checkpoint for standard screening (see TSA PreCheck hours below)

  • Standard Screening: This checkpoint is dedicated to standard screening travelers
  • TSA PreCheck: There are a limited number of TSA PreCheck lanes open from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. PreCheck passengers traveling after 8 p.m. will receive an expedited screening through the standard lanes at this checkpoint.
  • CLEAR Customers: A CLEAR lane is available at this checkpoint for standard screening. CLEAR customers with TSA PreCheck may use this lane, but are strongly encouraged to utilize the lane on the North Security Checkpoint for a more efficient experience

North Security Checkpoint: Primary checkpoint for TSA PreCheck passengers: Open 4 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.

  • TSA PreCheck: This checkpoint is primarily for TSA PreCheck passengers
  • CLEAR Customers: A CLEAR lane is available on the east side of this checkpoint for travelers who are CLEAR customers with TSA PreCheck
  • Premium/Premier Traveler Lane: This lane is available on the west side of this checkpoint
  • Standard Screening: There are a limited number of standard screening lanes, but we encourage standard passengers to use the South Security Checkpoint or the Bridge Security Checkpoint.

A-Bridge Security Checkpoint: Open from approximately 4:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

  • Standard Screening: This checkpoint is dedicated to standard screening travelers. TSA PreCheck is not available at this checkpoint.

For real-time security wait times to and to help select the best checkpoint, passengers can check