DIA seeking direct flights to Africa in effort to boost traffic

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A jetliner approaches Denver International Airport at sunset with Longs Peak in the background, Friday, March 5, 2021.

Denver International Airport has formed a committee to explore the possibility of opening more flights between African countries and Colorado.

Direct flights to and from Africa are rare in the United States, and nonexistent in Colorado. Unlike flights to major European countries, like London, Paris and Zurich, passengers from DIA currently have to sit through major layovers at other airports before jetting off to Africa. 

“As African economies grow and mature, we want Denver to be positioned as a favored point of access for the flow of passengers and cargo,” airport CEO Phil Washington said in a press release. “Securing new long-haul routes can take many years, and the members of the Africa Air Service Committee will be invaluable in helping us to achieve this goal.”

The new committee features 16 community members and local leaders. That includes two Denver city council members and several Black business owners.

Papa Dia, the founder of the Denver-based nonprofit African Leadership Group, said he joined the group to give fellow African immigrants a voice in air travel. Dia, an immigrant from Senegal, said traveling to and from Africa is difficult for Coloradans.

“You usually take three to four flights,” Dia said. “In some cases you have to go through Europe. [It can take] days to get to your final destination, and it costs more.”

The committee’s first task will be identifying airlines and markets that provide the best tourism opportunities.

Airport officials said bringing airlines from Africa and “other disconnected destinations” to Denver was one of the main priorities in their strategic plan. Their ultimate goal is to increase traffic through the airport to 100 million people. 

DIA is under relatively new leadership, with Washington taking the reins last summer. In addition to the African airline initiative, Washington is overseeing an estimated $1.3 billion budget to finish the Great Hall terminal project

The airport's Africa Air Service Committee includes:

  • Geta Asfaw, Asfaw Family Foundation International
  • Albus Brooks, Milender White
  • Denise Burgess, Burgess Services
  • Matthew Burkett, The Flyfisher Group
  • Papa Dia, African Leadership Group
  • Andrew Feinstein, EXDO Group Companies
  • Lee Gash-Maxey, Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce
  • Yemane Gebre-Michael, CSG
  • Stacie Gilmore, Denver City Council
  • Don Gips, Skoll Foundation
  • Mowa Haile, Sky Blue Builders
  • Muluye Hailemariam, Kabod Coffee
  • Christopher Herndon, Denver City Council
  • Marc Holtzman, Bank of Kigali (BK Group)
  • Hon. Elbra Wedgeworth, Casel and Associates LLC.
  • Richard Williams, Western Union

This story will be updated.