Is a 1 hour layover enough time in Denver? It might be too much actually…

Is a 1 hour layover enough time in Denver? It might be too much actually…

I was recently making a connection at the Denver International Airport (DEN), and it occurred to me as I was running to my gate that it wasn’t the cozy little airport that used to be. Is a 1 hour layover enough time in Denver anymore?

Despite its growing size, 1 hour layovers are indeed possible in Denver. The terminal layout is extremely efficient, and I’d even go as far as to say that 30 minutes is enough time to make a domestic-to-domestic connection.

However, it gets a little bit more complicated when talking about international flights…

Is 1 hour really enough layover time in Denver?

Yes! I just did it several weeks ago. And to be quite honest I felt like I had too much time to spare. I actually found myself pacing around like an impatient child. Remember how agonizing it was to wait for mother to prepare lunch? It felt just like that.

Denver airport 1 hour layover
A 1 hour layover at DEN allowed me to spend $16 on a crappy chicken salad, eat it all, as STILL have enough time left over to complain about how crappy it was.

Keep in mind that I was making a connection from one Frontier Airlines flight to another. However, even if I was making a connection from one domestic airline to any other that serves Denver International Airport, it still would’ve been plenty of time.

There are 3 separate terminals in Denver. They are all quite large, but they are very easy to traverse. More on the terminal layout in a moment…

What is the minimum layover for domestic flights in Denver?

As I mentioned above, I’d be perfectly comfortable with a 30 minute layover in Denver just as long as I was connecting from one domestic flight to another.

Well, I’d probably be feeling a slight twinge of anxiety, but I’d know that the chances of making the connection would be very high. 30 minutes is the minimum amount of time you need to get around the Denver airport – the only caveat is that you’ve got to move quickly.

Denver airport main terminal
The only downside to short layovers at DEN is how tempting it will be to stop and gawk at the scenery. This is a beautiful airport!

What is the minimum layover for international flights in Denver?

Compared to other large airports in the US, connecting to and from international flights in Denver isn’t as complicated. Yes, Denver International Airport is growing fast, but it still not as big and hairy has some of the others.

A. Connecting TO an international flight

The minimum layover time for connecting to an international flight from a domestic flight in Denver is an hour and a half. No, there are no extra security checks, but international flights usually start boarding 1 hour to 45 minutes before departure. You’ll need extra time to account for that.

B. Connecting FROM an international flight

Connecting from an international flight to a domestic flight in Denver just as slow and time consuming as it is at other US airports. The minimum connection time is 2 hours in my opinion, since you’re going to have to clear passport control and customs before collecting your bag and re-clearing security. All that stuff takes time.

A brief overview of the terminal layout at Denver

The Denver International Airport is one of the most efficient in the United States. It’s big, but it’s built on a large parcel of land which allowed the designers to spread it out and make it as simple as possible.

There are four main terminals at the Denver airport: A, B, C, and the Jeppesen Terminal. Terminals A, B, and C are where the flights depart from. The Jeppesen Terminal is where the airline ticketing counters are.

Denver International Airport terminal map
Denver International Airport terminal map. Think of it like a mini ATL. Without the heat and humidity.

All terminals are connected via an underground train system – which is both easy to use and extremely fast.

Two reasons why short layovers are OK in Denver

  1. The underground inter-terminal train. They built it with speed and capacity in mind, and I remember thinking that it was totally overkill the first time I visited this airport. The amount of people it moves between terminals every hour is insane.
  2. An efficient use of space. This is a big airport, and the architects had lots of room to do what they had to do to make these terminals as efficient as possible. That means wide walkways, lots of clear and helpful signage, and a common sense approach to moving people around as efficiently as possible.

Basically, I consider it to be what Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport should’ve been all along. The terminal layout is very similar, but the Denver airport features a much better use of space. It’s always hard to figure out how long of a layover you need in Atlanta – but it’s a non-issue at DEN.

Travel time between all terminals at Denver International Airport

As proof of how efficient the terminal layout is at the Denver International Airport, the following is a breakdown of how long it’s going to take you to travel between all terminals. As you can see, getting around this airport is a consistently pleasant experience.

Jeppesen Terminal to:

  • Terminal A: 5 minutes
  • Terminal B: 7 minutes
  • Terminal C: 9 minutes

Terminal A to:

  • Jeppesen Terminal: 5 minutes
  • Terminal B: 5 minutes
  • Terminal C: 7 minutes

Terminal B to:

  • Jeppesen Terminal: 7 minutes
  • Terminal A: 5 minutes
  • Terminal C: 5 minutes

Terminal C to:

  • Jeppesen Terminal: 9 minutes
  • Terminal A: 7 minutes
  • Terminal B: 5 minutes

Note that the time that it takes to get from one terminal to the other is the same no matter which direction you’re headed. The only reason why it would take longer in certain situations is if you’re connecting to or from an international flight. That’s always going to add some extra time, so be sure to factor that into your schedule.

How long of a layover do you need in Denver for a no-stress connection?

If it were me, I’d want 2 hours. At least. Yes, 30 minute connection times are definitely possible at the Denver International Airport, but I’m a chill guy and I hate to rush if I don’t have to.

DEN airport terminal
Never mind that you can’t see the far end of the terminal. You’ll make your flight. I promise!

Those of you who have read my other airport connection time guidelines will now that 2 hours is my standard answer to this question for pretty much nearly any airport.

However, it’s important to note that all airports are different. For example, a 1 hour layover in Denver is a lot different than a 1 hour layover in Seattle. The Seattle airport is huge, and not laid out as efficiently as DEN is.

Therefore, my wish for a 2 hour layover in Denver is a lot more luxurious than my wish for a 2 hour layover in Seattle.

One final tip about making short 1 hour layovers in Denver

The most important thing you need to know about making a tight connection in Denver is that it’s basically a smaller and more efficient version of the Atlanta airport.

The terminal layout is exactly the same, as is the underground connection train which runs between all concourses.

Denver airport inter-terminal train station
A look down on the inter-terminal train here at DEN. Take note of the fact that nobody in this pic is stressing out about missing their flight – it’s very easy to get around this place!

It’s highly likely that you won’t even have to change terminals are making a connection in Denver. But if you have to, it’s no big deal. Just walk towards the center of the terminal you arrive at, and you’ll see the escalators and elevators that will lead you to the train. Hop on that, and you’ll be at your connection gate in no time. 

It’s not as chill as doing a short layover in Honolulu, but you’ll survive. I promise.

Comments (2)

  1. Rosa

    January 9, 2024
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      January 9, 2024

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