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Southwest eyes new gates at its Denver concourse

Southwest Airlines has requested to operate out of all 16 new gates that will be added to its concourse at Denver International airport, as part of an aggressive growth plan at the Mile High City.

Dallas-based Southwest already leases 24 gates on concourse C at Denver, and has expressed interest in the 16 additional gates that are coming as part of an ongoing expansion of the airport.

"We'd like all of them," Southwest chief executive Gary Kelly told reporters at the airline's annual shareholders meeting in Denver on 15 May. "It would put us at 40 gates. With our productivity we can do a lot of flights with that… We try to manage our costs carefully and we won't commit to that real estate unless we were certain we are going to use it."

Denver airport plans to add 39 gates across its three concourses, as part of a $3.5 billion programme. An airport spokesperson tells FlightGlobal that the airport is in talks with "a number of carriers" on leasing the new gates.

"While gate assignments are not final yet, we do anticipate the gate expansion project will provide more gates for our existing carriers and also help DEN attract new airlines, including international carriers," she says.

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Denver airport is adding gates (the green extensions) to all three of its concourses

Denver airport

Alaska Airlines and Spirit Airlines also operate out of concourse C, but both airlines have a significantly smaller presence compared with Southwest at Denver. The airline is the second largest carrier at the airport, after United Airlines. However, Southwest carries the largest share of origin and destination traffic from the airport, Cirium schedules data show.

Denver is Southwest's second largest city in terms of capacity after Chicago Midway. "Denver is this remarkable success story for us," says Kelly. "It's a large growing and thriving community that is driving travel on its own."

The airline will break ground in the coming months on a new $100 million maintenance hangar in Denver, supporting its presence in the Mile High City. The hangar, which can accommodate three Boeing 737s, will be completed by end-2020, says Kelly. External space outside the hangar will take up to eight more 737s.

The facility will be home to 75 technical operations employees based in Denver, part of the carrier's 2,000-strong workforce in the city.

Kelly says the new hangar makes "perfect sense" for the airline, given the airline's volume of flights in Denver. The facility will support the airline's routine daily maintenance work, while heavy checks will still largely be performed at its base in Dallas.

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