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Mon Aug 04, 2003 12:10 pm

I know that CO used to have a hub at Denver, but when the new airport opened, they abandoned it. Does anyone know the reason? Could someone also explain the history involved with hubs and air carriers at DEN? Any info would be greatly appreciated!

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Mon Aug 04, 2003 2:33 pm

When I was like 5 or 6 I took my first plane trip through DEN (stapleton) I really wish I rememberd CO aircraf there, but I don't. This has been discussed in the past, but unfortunately, I don't remember the reasons stated... someone should get to it real quick though...
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Mon Aug 04, 2003 2:46 pm

Yes, they were pretty big in Stapelton.....Not the case anymore. Im guessing United was a big factor in their decision to drop the hub. United was agressive in taking Denver-some airlines just couldnt compete. Today I dont see alot of Continental planes around.
Could anyone dig up any info. on this?-Brett
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Mon Aug 04, 2003 2:58 pm

UA wasn't a big factor.... it was THE factor. Back in the early 90's UA was very strong, and CO was .... otherwise...... Nowdays that is no longer the case.
Working Hard, Flying Right Friendly....
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Mon Aug 04, 2003 3:33 pm

Besides UA and the fact that CO wasn't in the best cash position at the time, the main reason that CO didn't go to the new airport was that the airport fees were (and still are!) among the highest in the nation and a decision had to be made that led to the otherwise pull out of Denver.
If you go to the new airport today, you'll still see the large mx hangar with CO's name on it (used by Frontier) and all of the new-age de-icing stands with CO's name on them as well. There's a presence there, but unless UA disappears altogether, it probably won't get much bigger than it is now.

"Irregardless, it's a Cat III airplane, we don't need an alternate!"
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Tue Aug 05, 2003 12:01 am

Up until the early 80's, Stapleton was a hub for 4 airlines, Continental, Frontier, United and Western. UA and UA Express used the A and B concourses, Continental and Western shared C, and Frontier used D. When deregulation came into play, this hub was quite competitive.

Western already had a focus city in SLC with a new terminal; therefore, they decided to pull out of DEN and make SLC their new hub. This was around 1982 I think. SLC was marketed as the "Fastest Hub in the West." The original Frontier ceased operations in 1986 after the takeover by PeopleExpress.

This left UA and CO competing in Denver. At this time, this was the TexasAir Continental, not the original "Proud Bird" started up in LAX. The airlines went through a bad time in the early 90's and CO was one of the worst.

Interestingly, the new DIA was originally designed to have both CO and UA continue with hubs there. That is why you see the Continental name on the hangar and the de-icing area. Terminal A was to be for CO. CO entered their 2nd trip to BK sometime in the mid 90's and decided that after many years, they were going to close their Denver hub. It was too hard to compete with UA, and they could focus on their other hubs IAH (from Texas Air days), EWR and CLE (from acquiring PeopleExpress assets).

Well, DIA opened without the Continental hub, and for many years, Concourse A was like a ghost town, compared to the activity at UA's Concourse B. It is with the success of Frontier, that fortunes have changed. CO's only flights out of DEN today are to their hubs IAH, EWR and CLE.

AirVB, this is my recollection of the history of Stapleton and DIA. I was a DEN domiciled F/A with Frontier, and I miss the old Stapleton with the 4 hubs there. We were stepping over each other. For Frontier, part of Concourse D was remodeled so that passengers were carried out to the planes by transports (like they use at IAD). Frontier had run out of gates.
Oh how I long for the day when the skies were truly Friendly!
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Tue Aug 05, 2003 12:09 am

I remember passing through Stapleton in 1991 and 1993 as a young boy and seeing Continental aircraft aplenty (seemingly just as many as United aircraft.) Inside the Stapleton terminal, Continental had what felt like a mile of ticket counters - they had acquired the old Frontier counters in 1987 and now took up half the building.

Of course, they never fully utilized the gates on Concourse D that they inherited from Frontier. When I arrived on Concourse D on a Sun Country flight in 1993, only a few gates were being used for Continental Express flights. The rest of the gates still had CO logos everywhere, but were empty or had even been blocked off. The CO hub was making its last gasps at that point.

Andersjt - you are right about DIA's Concourse A being a ghost town when the new airport opened. At that time, Frontier only operated from three or four gates, and the rest of the concourse was supposed to be for Continental. Instead, it was empty, and most of the lights were even turned off.

You should check out Steve Gustafson's Stapleton history site if you get a chance:
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Tue Aug 05, 2003 12:13 am

You'll find that CO logos and colors continue to adorn the public areas of Concourse A at DEN as well.

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Tue Aug 05, 2003 12:24 am

Andersjt, that was a good summary. I thought I would help you out regarding the timeline of CO's bankruptcy. They didn't file bankruptcy in the mid 90's. They filed on Dec. 2, 1990. They emerged from bankruptcy in April 1993. They were winding down DEN hub operations in late 1994. In 1994 and 1995 was when CO tried the CAL Lite experiment which was an unmitigated disaster. CO's intention at that time was not to beef up the other hubs with the planes from Denver's hub, rather beef up CAL Lite. I am not making this up folks, but when CAL Lite was up and running for several days in January of 1995 they had several days where the systemwide load factor was under 40 or 50 percent. They had like 10 flights a day from GSO to CLE. My father, a retired MD80 captain, flew several CAL Lite routes with under 10 people. But I digress with all that.

I guess you could say that even though CO was not in bankruptcy in the mid 90's, they might as well have been in 94 and 95 when CAL Lite was operating.

Bethune came in before CO was about to die for good!

I worked at the Denver hub at Stapleton for several years in the early 90's ... Ask me anything about the operation. I remember it all quite clearly.
Tom in NO
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Tue Aug 05, 2003 12:44 am

CO also used remote gates at DEN. I recall landing one winter's morning in a 727-200, and parking over near CO's maintenance hangar. We then off-loaded into a mobile lounge, and drove over to concourse C. I don't have my old CO DEN brochure handy, soo I can't recall which gate the lounges pulled into, but it was most of the way out on the concourse on the left-hand side.

In those days, CO did have quite a hub at Stapleton. I was going to college in Daytona at the time, and the cheapest fares back to ONT (my home airport) were on CO. Only thing was, the closest they came to Daytona was at FLL. So I hopped the Greyhound bus to catch my flight at FLL! That was where I caught the 18 mile FLL-MIA segment, then to DEN and ONT.

Tom at MSY
"The criminal ineptitude makes you furious"-Bruce Springsteen, after seeing firsthand the damage from Hurricane Katrina
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Tue Aug 05, 2003 1:45 am

I work for Southwest, but the views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Southwest.
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Tue Aug 05, 2003 1:57 am

I also remember American talking a lot of putting a big hub at DIA (back in the salad days)!
I work for Southwest, but the views expressed are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Southwest.
Topic Author
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Tue Aug 05, 2003 1:05 pm

At this time, this was the TexasAir Continental, not the original "Proud Bird" started up in LAX.

Andersjt (or anyone else)-Could you explain this a little more? I don't really know the history of CO that well. Didn't they used to be based at LAX? What happened?

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Tue Aug 05, 2003 3:30 pm

I think many Continental folks will remember the tasteless acts of UAL when they came walking into the first class line ups at the ticket counter and started trying to poach the customers in the middle of transactions...

I would say that this tasteless crap was the start of the bad feeling


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