In the Power survey, DIA recorded below-average ratings in categories such as terminal facilities, food and beverage, retail services and "overall airport satisfaction" - all areas influenced by airport management.
Hancock said DIA needs "someone who has a global vision who can also build a team to master the small things."
Jim DeLong, who headed DIA until May 1998, said candidates should not only look at money as they weigh the Denver airport job but also consider requesting an employment contract.
"More and more airports are having to offer contracts," DeLong said of pacts that help insulate airport directors from political interference and ensure that they will be on the scene long enough to make substantial changes.
Hickenlooper said he is open to offering a contract if that's what it takes to get the right DIA chief, and the mayor said he won't be limited by a salary that tops out at $240,000.
"We'll go out with our salary range," he said, and "if it does not get someone of sufficient caliber to take the airport to a new level, we'll go out, raise the salary range and look again."
Staff writer Jeffrey Leib can be reached at 303-954-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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DIA's total of 43,387,513 passengers last year was up 2.6 percent from the 42,275,913 passengers who passed through DIA in 2004.