What Pandemic? Southwest’s Denver Passengers Up 15%

Southwest had strong growth at Denver in July, with 267,000 additional passengers versus the same month in 2019, with both domestic and international rising. This growth, and declines by other airlines, meant that Southwest had one-third of Denver’s passengers that month.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 N204WN
Southwest added over 15% more passengers at Denver in July. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Southwest’s strong growth at Denver

The latest available passenger information from Denver is July. In this month, Southwest grew impressively, adding 15.3% more traffic versus July 2019. It passed the two million market with 270,282 additional passengers.

While domestic was mainly responsible (+15.3%, +266,925), international grew decently too, at least on a percentage basis (+11.6%, +3,357.). Of course, none of this says anything about fares or financial performance. However, it is in itself decent – and even more so given the fact we are still in the midst of a pandemic.

Southwest 737
San Francisco is one of 85 Southwest routes from Denver. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

But, Denver remains down overall

Across all airlines, Denver’s July passenger throughput was down by just 5.4% versus 2019. A decline was obviously expected and, under the circumstances, is relatively minimal compared with most other core US airports and the vast majority of airports elsewhere.

Denver saw 6.38 million passengers, the airport’s statistics indicate, a reduction of 364,537. Naturally, international traffic fared far worse (-30.0%) than domestic (-4.2%). Of major airlines, United (including United Express), the Colorado airport’s largest carrier, had 280,605 fewer passengers (-9.4%), nearly the same as Southwest’s addition.

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Frontier (-21.4%), Delta (-14.1%), and Spirit (-46.0%) also fell sharply. Indeed, Southwest added by far the most traffic, pushing its share of Denver passengers to one-third, although American (+8.6%), Alaska (+13.2%), and JetBlue (+37.1%) all grew meaningfully by this measure too.

Southwest 737
Southwest launched Denver to Santa Barbara in April. Photo: Tom Bolton via Noozhawk

Southwest added 17 more Denver routes

In July 2019, Southwest had 68 routes from Denver, the airport with its most transit passengers. Two years later – and despite COVID – that has risen to 85, a net increase of 17. Some 20 routes have been added, but Belize City, Lubbock, and Newark have been cut.

Analysis of schedule information from OAG indicates that Birmingham, Bozeman, Charlotte, Chicago O’Hare, Colorado Springs, Des Moines, Fort Myers, Fresno, Houston Intercontinental, Little Rock, Miami, Midland-Odesa, Montrose, Palm Springs, Richmond, Santa Barbara, Sarasota, Savannah, Steamboat Springs, and Wichita were all operated in July 2021 but not in 2019. Some were served previously but relaunched.

The big focus on leisure routes is clear. Likewise in the markets that saw increased capacity, such as Norfolk (+312.7% more available for sale), Charleston (+302.0%), Pensacola (+287.5%), Cancun (+60.0%), Reno (+45.9%), Fort Lauderdale (+35.1%), Salt Lake City (+32.4%), Orlando (+23.8%), and more.

Southwest's additional Denver routes July 2021
These routes weren’t operated in July 2019 but were in July 2021. Image: GCMap.

Denver is Southwest’s leading airport

This growth, and declines elsewhere, meant that Denver was Southwest’s largest airport in July 2021, OAG shows. Fast-forwarding to September, the Colorado airport is still number-one for the carrier. The 85 routes are still available, with the top-10 as follows:

  • Denver to Phoenix: 84,054 round-trip non-stop seats for sale in September
  • Dallas Love: 76,189
  • Las Vegas: 73,318
  • Chicago Midway: 70,190
  • Houston Hobby: 61,985
  • Orange County: 58,640
  • Salt Lake City: 58,384
  • Seattle: 54,656
  • San Diego: 54,912
  • Austin: 50,226

Have you flown Southwest to/from Denver? If so, what are your experiences? How have you found it as a place to transit? Let us know in the comments.