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DIA's closed parking lots could mean millions in lost revenue in the holiday travel season

"Because we can't give them the best possible experience with parking, we have not been able to open the shuttle lots..."

DENVER — Denver International Airport (DIA) has two million reasons to open the budget shuttle lots before the holiday travel season.

In November and December 2018 and 2019, DIA made $2.4 and $2.2 million on the Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert shuttle lots, which have been closed since May 2020.

"What we care about more than anything is the experience that our customers have when they are here at this airport," said Stacey Stegman, vice president of communications at the airport. "Because we can't give them the best possible experience with parking, we have not been able to open the shuttle lots, to provide that more affordable parking option at this time."

Those $8 per day lots are the cheapest offered by the airport. The economy lots just outside the garages that attach to the terminal are now $17 per day. The garages are $28 per day.

Shuttles are used to get travelers from the economy lots to the terminal. There are not enough shuttle drivers to get travelers from the shuttle lots to the terminal.

"The difficulty that we have and continue to have is that we cannot find drivers to provide the shuttles that we need to get people from those lots to the airport in a timely fashion," said Stegman. "What we don't want is to have so few drivers that people have long waits out in those lots. We don't want people sitting out there in the cold, waiting a half hour, waiting an hour, for a shuttle, only to come in, find a long line with TSA and then be late for their flight."

DIA contracts with ABM to provide shuttle service.

RELATED: Long DIA security lines: One less PreCheck lane, no way to pre-check wait times

ABM currently has a job listing for shuttle drivers. The listing said "graveyard" shift, but it also said more than 100 applicants needed, so perhaps more than just graveyard. The hourly rate is listed at $20/hour.

"DEN does not hire drivers, so that is not a function of the airport. We contract that out to a company. They're the ones that make the decision on what to pay their drivers," said Stegman. "They're also not getting paid as much from us if they're not performing the service. So it's to their benefit to get drivers on board."

In all of 2018 and 2019 combined, DIA made $28 million from the Pikes Peak and Mt. Elbert shuttle lots.

The airport makes the bulk of its money from the garages and economy lot. In 2018, DIA made $172 million from parking. In 2019, it was $181 million. That dropped in 2020 to $73 million. And so far in 2021, it's $82 million.

"We can get the lot open immediately if we can get drivers available to staff the shuttles," said Stegman.

The airport is still making money off parking, even if travelers choose one of seven off-site locations.

"We receive a fee from the off-airport lots. They pay to operate at the airport and it is based on their total revenues," said Stegman.

So far in 2021, DIA has made $2 million in fees from the off-site parking sites. The same sites that DIA recommends travelers choose for budget options.

"Even though we're going to be missing out on some parking revenue, right now we want our customers to have the best possible experience," said Stegman. "Anybody that operates at the airport, we do receive a portion of their revenue. We receive more when it's something that we operate directly, but if we can't provide that service, then we would encourage people to find alternatives."

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