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Southwest Airlines loves Denver so much it wants to lease 16 more gates at DIA

After United won approval for new gates at growing airport, Southwest makes its pitch to a City Council on Wednesday

A Denver International Airport employee looks out from the new gates being constructed Concourse B as part of Denver International Airport’s Gate Expansion Project toward the main terminal Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 in Denver. DIA is adding 39 new gates across all three concourses that will be operational by the spring of 2021.
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Southwest Airlines has put its Denver International Airport growth plans in writing. Now it’s up to the City Council to decide if the budget carrier will be granted rights to 16 more gates at the growing airport after last month approving a 24-gate lease expansion for competitor United Airlines.

Southwest officials with join representatives from DIA at a City Council committee meeting Wednesday afternoon where they will lay out the airline’s request. If the committee approves, the proposal will go before the entire Council sometime in the coming weeks.

The Dallas-based budget carrier leases 24 gates on DIA’s Concourse C. It is seeking to absorb all 16 new gates being built on that concourse, upping its DIA footprint to 40 gates.

The proposed lease amendment would also extend Southwest’s agreement with the city through Feb. 28, 2035. The airline’s current DIA lease expires at the end of this year, airport officials say.

“This will support our long-term growth plans,” Southwest spokesman Dan Landson said Tuesday.

The airline has not been shy about its desire to be part of DIA’s big growth spurt. CEO Gary Kelly said last spring it was his company’s aim to take on all of the new C gates at DIA. Southwest is in the process of building a $100 million maintenance hangar at the airport.

The airline launched operations at DIA in 2006 with 13 daily departures, according to the airport. Today, Southwest offers about 250 departures per day to more than 69 destinations.

On Monday, Southwest announced plans to launch a winter seasonal flight out of DIA to Yampa Valley Regional Airport, later this year, bringing service to the Steamboat Springs market.

The new C gates are expected to be completed in 2021 and operational in 2022, according to DIA. They are being built as part of the airport’s $1.5 billion expansion project that is adding 39 gates there.

United was granted access to 24 additional gates on the airport’s A and B concourses when its updated lease amendment was unanimously approved by the City Council in January. Of those, 13 are new gates being built as part of the expansion.

If Southwest is successful in its bid, that will leave 10 new gates unclaimed. The only other carrier that operates a hub at DIA is Denver-based Frontier Airlines. Officials with Frontier on Tuesday indicated they aren’t ready to publicly discuss the airline’s DIA plans at this time.

“We are in ongoing discussions with the airport and will be able to share additional information down the road,” spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz wrote in an email.

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