security wait times at denver international airport?

Planning my international journey from Denver International Airport (DEN), one crucial question loomed: How early should I arrive at the airport to ensure a smooth and stress-free departure?

My experience, which I’ll share in this guide, underscores the importance of timing, especially at an airport as bustling and vast as DEN.

Denver International Airport: First Impressions

Denver International Airport, with its sprawling layout and distinctive architecture, serves as a key hub for both domestic and international travel.

United Airlines at DEN

Recognized for its efficiency, the airport’s design is nevertheless imposing, particularly for international travelers unfamiliar with its intricacies.

Determining Arrival Time

For international flights, conventional wisdom suggests arriving at the airport at least 3 hours before your scheduled departure.

Given DEN’s size and potential for variable wait times at check-in and security, I opted to follow this guidance, aiming to allow ample time for every step of the pre-flight process.

Check-In and Baggage Drop

Upon arriving at DEN, my first task was to locate the international check-in counters for my airline. Signage at DEN is clear and plentiful, guiding passengers efficiently to their desired locations.

The check-in area for international flights was notably busy, but well-organized, with dedicated queues for different classes of service and passenger needs.

United Airlines at DEN

Utilizing a self-service kiosk to check in and drop off my luggage took approximately 15 minutes, a testament to the airport’s commitment to streamlining passenger flow.

However, observing longer lines at the manned counters, it was evident that arriving earlier benefits those needing additional assistance.

Security Screening: The Unpredictable Variable

Security screening can be the most time-consuming aspect of airport navigation. At DEN, the TSA operates several checkpoints, each equipped to handle the airport’s high passenger volume.

On the day of my flight, the security line for international departures was lengthy, yet efficient, with staff actively managing queues and facilitating the screening process.

Southwest Airlines at DEN

From joining the security line to collecting my belongings on the other side, the process took roughly 30 minutes.

This experience highlighted the importance of the 3-hour arrival guideline, as security wait times can vary significantly based on the time of day and the airport’s overall traffic volume.

Navigating to the Gate

security wait times at denver international airport?

Post-security, I embarked on the trek to my departure gate. DEN’s layout, while logical, involves considerable distances that can take time to traverse, especially in the international concourses. Signage and airport staff were helpful in directing passengers, and moving walkways expedited the journey.

Amenities and Waiting Areas

With security behind me and time to spare before boarding, I explored the international concourse’s offerings.

Southwest Airlines at DEN

DEN provides a wide array of amenities for international travelers, including dining options that range from quick snacks to full-service restaurants, shopping for last-minute travel needs or gifts, and lounging areas for relaxation.

Boarding and Departure

The boarding process for my international flight was smooth and well-organized. Gate areas at DEN are spacious and equipped with ample seating and charging stations, making the wait comfortable.

The airport’s efforts to maintain timely departures for international flights were evident, underscoring the efficiency that defines DEN’s operations.

Tips for International Travelers at DEN

Based on my experience, here are several tips for those departing on international flights from Denver International Airport:

  1. Arrive Early: Adhering to the 3-hour arrival guideline is advisable, especially if you’re checking luggage or traveling during peak periods.
  2. Check-In Online: If possible, check in online to save time at the airport. If you have luggage to check, self-service kiosks can expedite the process.
  3. Prepare for Security: Have your travel documents readily accessible and review TSA guidelines beforehand to ensure a smooth passage through security.
  4. Familiarize Yourself with the Airport Layout: Understanding DEN’s layout can help manage your time effectively, especially when navigating to your gate.
  5. Enjoy the Amenities: DEN’s international concourses offer a range of services and amenities. Arriving early provides an opportunity to explore and relax before your flight.


Arriving at Denver International Airport 3 hours before an international flight provides a buffer that can alleviate the stress of unforeseen delays and enhance the overall travel experience.

My journey through DEN was marked by efficiency, from check-in to boarding, facilitated by the airport’s design and the professionalism of its staff.

For international travelers, DEN’s combination of clear signage, ample amenities, and streamlined processes ensures a positive start to any journey.

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