Travelers Rush To Denver International Airport To Beat The Thanksgiving Snowstorm

November 25, 2019
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Kylie Smith of Chicago at left hoists her luggage at the Southwest Airlines check-in counter on Monday Nov. 25 2019. DIA was bracing for both record-setting November snow and the traditional Thanksgiving week crowds.

Updated 8:13 p.m.

If you're traveling out of Denver International Airport for Thanksgiving, keep a close eye on your flight status.

With more than a foot of snow forecast for parts of the Front Range, airlines have already taken action. As of early Monday afternoon, 53 flights had been canceled and 105 had been delayed according to the website FlightAware.

United, Delta, Frontier, Southwest and Jet Blue announced they will issue travel waivers that will let customers rebook their travel at no cost.

"It's a bummer this is happening ahead of Thanksgiving," said airport spokeswoman Emily Williams. "We know a lot of people are trying to get home and we are going to do our best to get you there. And we will definitely get you there safely."

191125 SNOWSTORM DIAHart Van Denburg/CPR News
Passengers wait to pass through security at Denver International Airport Monday evening Nov. 25 2019. DIA was bracing for both record-setting November snow and the traditional Thanksgiving week crowds.

Be sure to check with your airline or consult the misery map to see how the storm has affected travel.

The National Weather Service has warned everyone not to mess with the coming storm. Meteorologists predict the conditions could make travel "impossible" across large parts of Colorado. Snow totals could reach anywhere from 6 to 16 inches across most the Front Range. Areas north of Denver, including Boulder and Fort Collins, could see nearly two feet of snow.

Wind gusts could also cut down on visibility across the region. The NWS has issued a winter storm warning beginning from 8 pm on Monday until 5 pm on Tuesday. It expects the worst conditions for Tuesday morning.

Williams, the airport spokeswoman, said security and baggage check lines should grow just as the weather hits. She expects 190,000 people to move through the airport on Monday and 196,000 on Tuesday. The airport expects about 2 million travelers total over the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Travel tips still apply. Get here two hours before your flight. That should give you plenty of time to get through security and to your gate," said Williams.

Victoria Martin, 18, said her family managed to rebook their vacation to Hawaii a day earlier. While she wasn't too concerned about making it out of Denver, she said that's less true for her parents.

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Emaribel Knowles helps passengers check in for their flights at Denver International Airport Monday Nov. 25 2019. DIA was bracing for both record-setting November snow and the traditional Thanksgiving week crowds.

"You were so stressed, Mom!" she said while they waited near the United Airlines check-in counter. "It's been an adventure so far and we will see how it goes."

Deedee Fox was out of breath as she moved her luggage through a baggage check line. The retiree from outside Fort Collins was on her way to Witchita to see her family for Thanksgiving. She woke before dawn on Sunday to rebook her flight, which had been scheduled to leave Tuesday.

"We just decided to go a day early," she said. "It worked out."

She had little advice for travelers planning to leave Monday night or in the depths of the storm on Tuesday.

"Good luck!" she said. "You're flight might get canceled so you won't have to pay for it."

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A passenger takes a nap on Level 5 at Denver International Airport's main terminal. DIA was bracing for both record-setting November snow and the traditional Thanksgiving week crowds.

But by 7:30 p.m. on Monday, DIA was relatively calm. Sarah Hampel had just arrived from Baltimore, Maryland after her cousin's wedding and was waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up.

"It feels pretty typical, I was here on Friday night flying out and it was much more crowded then," Hampel said. "Today it's bustling, there was a kid on roller skates in C terminal and a girl in a bra. Just another Monday night."

A group of Air Force cadets, some in uniform and others not, showed up extra early for their flights home to cities across the country. 

William Decker and Alexis Shirley, both cadets in plain clothes, were trying to get on a stand-by flight to head to Decker's home in Portland, Oregon for the holiday. They had a flight scheduled for Tuesday at 9 p.m. because they were supposed to have classes that day. 

When classes were cancelled, they decided to drive from Colorado Springs and get on a different flight, which didn't work out. They'll have to try their luck Tuesday morning.

But first, they need to find a hotel for the night.