Business

DIA spokesman: "There's no such thing as an all-weather airport"

Denver International Airport received complaints from some airlines on Thursday for allegedly not clearing runways of snow quickly enough -- but DIA spokesman Chuck Cannon believes the facility well. "Obviously, things slowed down on Wednesday and Thursday," he concedes, "but they have to when you have blizzard conditions like we had yesterday. It really wasn't the snow so much as the wind. It's tough to operate in weather like that, particularly when you have to be safe -- and safety's the number-one issue."

How's that jibe with the early promotional line that DIA is an "all-weather airport"? As Cannon makes clear, this claim doesn't hold up, and never has. "There's no such thing as an all-weather airport," he says. "It's like the phrase 'all-terrain vehicle.' It says 'all-terrain,' but you can't drive one off a cliff and survive."

"That was a phrase somebody used way back in the late '80s or early '90s, and I don't know who came up with it, but there's no such thing," he goes on. "I think what they meant to say is that the new airport would have the latest technology, and all of the systems would operate probably better in bad weather than any other airport. And we do operate better than most other airports, because of the technology we have." As evidence, the points to the fact that Peña Boulevard remained open throughout the storm, and large numbers of passengers weren't stranded at DIA overnight because of the conditions.

Of course, a figurative, rather than literal, storm continues at the airport thanks to its chief financial officer, Stan Koniz, being placed on "investigatory leave" by manager Kim Day; Cannon declines to comment on the situation, calling it a "personnel issue." But the atmospheric conditions have finally moderated. "Everything's open and we're operating normally," he says.

Next time the clouds gather, however, people shouldn't take that old "all-weather" pitch too literally, though. "You can't operate safely in all weather," he says. "That's just the way it is."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts