Front Range

Air Time

Summer travelers make August one of the most hectic months of the year at Denver International Airport, the fifth busiest airport in the country. Meet Kim Day, the woman in charge of the controlled chaos.

August 2012

RESUMÉ

Name: Kim Day

Age: 58

Title: Aviation Manager

Education: Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University

Experience: Former executive director of Los Angeles International Airport

Hobby: Cooking Italian food with family

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Do you like to travel, or has running an airport ruined that for you? 

I think that’s one of the ironic things in this industry: Probably all the people in this business love to travel. We travel a little for business, we’re around airplanes all the time, and then when we get time off, we travel. I’m an Air Force brat, so I grew up all over. We moved every few years. That kind of gets you in the habit of going to see new places. 

So you’ve been on planes your whole life. Do you think you chose this career path because you moved a lot when you were younger?

There was definitely some of that in me. My dad was a pilot in World War II. We always went out and saw planes take off and land. But I didn’t know that this was the direction I was going. In fact, I’m an architect by trade. I practiced architecture for about 20 years before I really got into the airport side of things. 

Other than DIA, what’s your favorite airport? 

Kahului, Maui. You get off [the plane] and you’re in open air. There’s just something about the fact that you get that instant sense of where you are. It’s immediate. It’s the air, it’s the smell. It’s the moisture on your face. It’s the sound. I love that. 

Is that an effect you’re going for at DIA?

We are. We can’t make you be outdoors immediately, for obvious reasons, but we are trying to bring Denver to the airport. The Chophouse is in Concourse A. By the end of this year we will have Elway’s and Udi’s. Next year we will have Root Down. I think people expect national brands, but to have a nice mix is important. 

Do you have any airport pet peeves? 

That smell of either used oil or
Cinnabon—basically a bad ventilation system. That’s my number one. The
second is a dirty airport, dirty bathrooms
in particular. 

Restrooms—that’s something that people notice right away. 

Particularly women. I think we’re a little pickier. And, I have to say, it’s something [the staff] takes a great deal of pride in here—having a very clean airport. 

How closely do you follow the weather?

I never used to care. But now—this is really sad to admit—I’ll actually watch a couple of different channels, especially when the weather is changing. There’s nothing reliable about weather.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Not knowing what tomorrow is going to bring. Is it going to bring a terrorist incident? Or are we going to have an incident on our airfield? Is one of our airlines going to call me at 11 p.m.—like Frontier did two years ago—and say we went into bankruptcy? It’s a really dynamic industry; that’s why we’re all so passionate about it. That’s what’s so fun. No two days are alike. 

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5280.com Exclusive: More Q&A with Kim Day

 

What do you think of the conspiracy theories that have to do with the airport? 

I think it’s really interesting that people are that fascinated with these little, insignificant, and often hard-to-find elements, and that they have made all this stuff up. I don’t get it really; I think its funny.

Why are there birds flying around the main terminal? 

They just fly in the doors. You can’t keep them out. And then what do you do once they're in? There’s a really high space in some areas of the tent, so they're just there. Nobody likes them, but there they are. I mean, think of how many doors you’ve got open all over this airport—they're going to fly in.

Are there any downsides to all the growth at the airport?

I think it’s a good problem to have. I think if we were not planning, if we didn’t have ways of accommodating it, it could be horrible. If we can keep up with it (the growth), there are no negatives. And every time you add a flight, it gives passengers more options, and when passengers have more options, they start flying more. So, over time we will get more international flights, we will get more destinations, and that just serves our passengers much better. 

In the August issue, we reported that Kim Day's degree was a Bachelor of Science in Architecture.
Her actual degree is a Bachelor of Architecture. We regret the error.