Behind the scenes at United Airlines during the Thanksgiving travel rush

Denver7 gets a look at what happens during rush
Posted at 8:46 PM, Nov 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-22 00:17:33-05

DENVER -- Denver International Airport is preparing for heavy passenger counts during the annual winter holiday rush. As passengers make the journey on Pena Boulevard to the airport property, teams from United Airlines are working around the clock to ensure a smooth holiday season.

Denver7 was given exclusive access to United’s Station Operations Center.

It's crunch time as United Flight 143 is gets ready for the 12-hour flight from Denver to Tokyo. It's a race to make sure the bags are loaded, passengers are on-board, and the doors are closed for an on-time departure.

“I'm a lead ramp service man. So I have anywhere from four to five guys that work with me," said Mike Dennis, a United employee of 31 years. "I'm second generation, so my dad worked here."

He already knows late November is a busy time here on the ramp.

Just how busy? On most days, United flights are about 80-percent full.

During the holiday rush, that number jumps up to between 90 and 100 percent.

“It's actually one of our busiest weeks for the entire year," said Kaitlin Doherty, who works inside the operations center.  Doherty and her team deal with maintenance issues, weather delays and baggage problems.

“We've been talking about Thanksgiving for at least a month now,” she said.

With planes, people, even pets always on the go -- simple tasks are often scheduled.

For example, the goal is to start removing bags from the jet about three minutes after the plane pulls up to the gate.

Back to gate B32 to Tokyo.

Mike and his team pushed back a few minutes early.