DENVER — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced his nominee for the next CEO of Denver International Airport (DIA) on Monday.
Hancock nominated Phil Washington for the position during a news conference at the airport. Washington, pending Denver City Council confirmation, will replace current CEO Kim Day, who will be retiring in July after 13 years.
Washington left Denver in 2015 to be the head of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the regional transit agency known as Metro. Before that, he led Denver's Regional Transportation District (RTD).
“I’m honored to be nominated for this role by Mayor Hancock, and excited to have the opportunity not only to return home, but to lead one of the premier airports and airport teams anywhere in the world,” Washington said.
Day announced her retirement on May 14.
“Experiencing breast cancer made me think about reducing stress and retiring last year, but then COVID-19 hit," said Day. "I felt the responsibility to lead the airport through the pandemic and leave it in a strong and financially healthy place with major capital projects on target to meet their budget and schedule goals."
DIA is the third busiest airport in the country and one of the top 10 busiest airports in the world. Washington will oversee an airport leadership team that is preparing for a continued investment in the airport’s facilities and infrastructure, boosting customer experiences and improving safety for passengers.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home order last year hit hard at DIA. On April 15, 2020, only 2,026 passengers went through Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints. Now, with more and more people being vaccinated and a go-ahead from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to travel if you are, the airport is looking more like it did in 2019.
During Day's tenure, DIA passenger traffic grew from 51.2 million to a pre-pandemic high of 69 million per year, according to the airport. Revenue grew from $842 million to $1.2 billion.
“I can’t praise Kim Day enough for the job she’s done at DEN, and for the partnership we’ve had since I was on City Council,” Mayor Hancock said. “She has had one of the most successful tenures leading a major international airport anywhere in the country, and I want to thank her for her dedicated service to our airport and to our entire city.”
DIA increased its nonstop flights to 214 destinations, including international cities like Tokyo, Paris, Zurich, Reykjavik and Panama. Day helped broker the addition of 11 airlines flying out of the Denver airport, DIA said.
“I will miss so much about [DIA] and its talented and capable people," Day said in a news release. "We have accomplished so much together, but I’m ready to discover the next phase of my life. I’m grateful to Senator Hickenlooper and Mayor Hancock for trusting me to be [DIA]'s steward these past 13 years.”
Day also has overseen the Great Hall construction project that began in 2018 and was plagued by troubles early on, as DIA evicted the original contractor with the project about 25% complete. It sat mostly dormant for months, until the spring of 2020, when Denver-based Hensel Phelps Construction was brought on to complete the work.
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