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Last April, DIA was almost empty and planes were parked on the runway. Here's what it looks like now

Traffic is bouncing back at DIA, but like everything else in the world, there are changes because of COVID-19.

DENVER — One year ago, traffic at Denver International Airport was down 95%, with 1,000 fewer flights happening per day and unused planes grounded on the empty runways. 

It makes sense: April 2020 was the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a vast majority of the country was under some type of stay-at-home order. 

A lot has changed over the past year. COVID-19 has changed the world in innumerable ways and at this point, wearing masks and keeping six feet apart from others is basically a habit. 

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But, 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 beginning to look more like it did in 2019. 

Case in point? This comparison of photos from one year ago to now, where people are once again congregating at the security lines that were empty in April 2020. 

These past few months, DIA spokesperson Emily Williams said the airport put hand sanitizing stations in certain high-traffic areas as well as disinfecting wipe dispensers near gates.

DIA also now gives passengers the option to get food delivered so they don’t have to congregate outside of shops and restaurants. A number of people also remind travelers to keep their distance throughout the airport.

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Williams suggested using Verifly, a program DIA to their services in October 2020. The program allows people to make reservations to get through security and limited capacity trains at specific times to avoid large crowds. The program is only available until April 30, according to the DIA website

"As we return to pre-pandemic levels, freeing up the Verifly train car will allow for people to spread out better in all cars," Williams said. 

Williams said DIA encourages people to wait  two to three minutes for the next train if the current car is full and move to the center train cars where there are usually less people.

“Just like the things we’ve learned during the pandemic, there’s a level of personal responsibility now too,” Williams said. “Now that people feel comfortable traveling, we want them to remember all the things that they’ve been practicing for the past year.”

Williams said DIA has recovered “incredibly quickly” from the pandemic. Last week, passenger traffic was down 20% over 2019, whereas nationally, that number is about 40%.  

The airport is also offering free vaccines to all of its employees, though they’re not required.

“The airport never stopped operating, it is an essential park of the national air space program, and we’ve had people that have worked throughout the pandemic to make sure that people who had to fly were able to do so safely,” she said. “We’re seeing people begin to travel again, and many people haven’t been out to the airport in over a year, so there are still some COVID changes in place.”

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