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There’s a chronic problem in the aviation world: There’s far too little airport capacity to meet the expected growth in air travel. At the IATA World Passenger Symposium (WPS) this week, this point was made very clear, showing how just four of the top 100 airports worldwide have enough capacity to handle the expected growth over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, many airports are already struggling with current demand:

Top 100 airports

One of those red dots is Denver International Airport (DEN), which handled over 58 million passengers in 2016 despite being designed to accommodate just 50 million per year when the airport was opened in 1995.

Now, DEN is making a massive move to get itself ahead of the curve. The airport has unveiled plans for a $1.5 billion, 39-gate expansion, which will hopefully be completed by 2021. This expansion would increase the number of jetway gates from 107 to 146 — more than a 36% increase. This is an extension of the previously proposed 26-gate expansion project launched just this August.

Speaking to the Denver Post, Denver Airport spokesperson Stacey Stegman explained that “the build-out is more (than before), and that’s because the airlines are all growing. Almost every single airline wants to grow in Denver.” Specifically mentioned in the expansion plans are United, Southwest and Frontier.

The plans are already in motion. The airport filed four proposed contracts with design and construction firms this week ahead of a meeting with the Denver City Council November 1. The go-ahead vote is projected to be no sooner than November 13.

While the exact plans and renderings will come from those contracts, we have a pretty good idea of how the airport will be expanded. DEN airport was originally designed to make future expansion easier. Each of DEN’s three concourses were designed with enough space on the ends to allow “telescoping” of the terminals. Hopefully this design will mean limited impact on travelers during the construction phase, as only the gates at the end of the concourses are affected.

Featured image by tvirbickis via Getty Images

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