DIA has been quicker to recover than many of its peer airports said spokesperson Emily Williams for two main reasons; it is a connecting airport, and Colorado offered many summer activities that drew visitors.
Passenger traffic at Denver International Airport was brisk the Monday before Thanksgiving, though nothing like pre-COVID-19 days. The airport helped people flow through to visit family for the holiday and other travel.
About 100,000 people came through last weekend, compared to a little more than 200,000 the weekend before Thanksgiving in 2019. Sunday had about 35,000 travelers.
“You can live in fear or wait until you get the shot. We still got to go on. I mean we’re not getting any younger,” said Leslie Shaffer, who was there along with her husband to pick up her daughter-in-law and their 2-year-old grandson who had just arrived.
“We’re going to do a little bit of a different Thanksgiving and social distance, not just just all sit around the table.”
Many travelers came and went out of need. Patricia Smith arrived home to the waiting arms of her husband after going to Florida upon the death of her father.
“I don’t get up. I don’t eat anything, and I don’t drink anything. I just stay there and keep my mask on and hope and pray we’re all safe.”
Jeff Simons, 66, pushed a cart full of belongings through the airport after returning from Thailand. He was headed for a bus to his native Wyoming. Simons had serious injures from a recent fall and was still pretty banged up. He has spent a lot of time in Asia in recent years and loves it.
“You can’t travel in Asia anymore,” he said. “It is locked down.”
Other travelers from out of the country also told stories of different travel overseas.
Navy commander Matthew Mattivi is stationed in Bahrain and brought his family home to Colorado for a family wedding. They had met his wife’s parents in Denver, flew to Chicago and back. CBS4 asked if all that travel made him antsy.
”Very much, but Bahrain’s very controlled,” he said.
In spite of warnings about travel, Denver continues its slow return to air travel. One TSA worker died after a case of COVID-19 recently, but there’s no proof where they got it. There have been dozens of known cases among workers at the airport.
May did change plans as warnings increased. A week ago, DIA expected about two-thirds the usual numbers for this time of year, but ultimately had about half as people changed or cancelled plans.
The busiest day of the Thanksgiving period is yet to come. Airport officials expect 50,000 to come through Sunday. A risk some feel is worth it.
“Life continues to go on, and I think grocery stores are just as dangerous as anything that this could bring,” said Shaffer.