"Hub to hub" flights
The Munich route was attainable because of Lufthansa's link with United Airlines through the Star Alliance, which makes it easier for United passengers to connect to Lufthansa and allows them to use and earn United miles on Lufthansa.
Other factors came into play.
Munich is a Lufthansa hub, meaning the Denver-Munich flight is a "hub to hub" flight, drawing from passengers connecting from both sides of the Atlantic.
Lufthansa also wanted to add more capacity from Denver but faced constraints in Frankfurt. Plans for an additional runway there are in the works, but the expansion is far off, which made Munich a better option, said Lufthansa regional sales manager Harry Huff.
Covington says the Munich flight is not just another German flight but "another continental Europe flight," since passengers can connect from there to other cities, particularly in southern and Eastern Europe.
"We were surprised by the number of companies that told us they were going to be doing business in Italy and (Munich) was going to be their jumping off point," Clark said. "It also might be a little bit less expensive for people to fly directly there."
Since securing the Munich flight, Denver officials have turned their attention to attracting a nonstop Tokyo flight - considered to be the most important target, though likely years from becoming a reality.
"Tokyo is a gateway into Asia for us," Covington said.
Other possible direct routes to Asia include Seoul, South Korea; Hong Kong; Bangkok, Thailand; and Taipei, Taiwan.
Looking toward Europe, DIA officials hope to one day see flights to Manchester, England; Rome; Paris; and Amsterdam, Netherlands, for which DIA is offering incentives as it did for the Munich flight, but only for this year.
Economic development officials are revising their strategy in Asia and are considering hiring someone in Japan instead of contracting for a Denver representative there, Clark said.
"Any medium- to large-size company that we deal with today has some international commerce," he said. "Every one asks, 'Where do you go, who's the airline, and why aren't you flying to Asia?"'