George Bush Intercontinental Airport

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George Bush Intercontinental Airport
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (logo).svg
IAH Aerial.jpg
WMO: 72243
Airport type Public
Owner City of Houston
Operator Houston Airport System
Serves Greater Houston
Location Houston, Texas, United States
Hub for United Airlines
Focus city for Spirit Airlines[1]
Elevation AMSL 97 ft / 30 m
Coordinates 29°59′04″N 095°20′29″W / 29.98444°N 95.34139°W / 29.98444; -95.34139Coordinates: 29°59′04″N 095°20′29″W / 29.98444°N 95.34139°W / 29.98444; -95.34139
FAA airport diagram
FAA airport diagram
IAH is located in Texas
Location within Texas
Direction Length Surface
ft m
15L/33R 12,002 3,658 Concrete
15R/33L 9,999 3,048 Concrete
9/27 10,000 3,048 Concrete
8L/26R 9,000 2,743 Concrete
8R/26L 9,402 2,866 Concrete
Statistics (2014)
Passengers 41,251,015
Aircraft operations 508,935 (0.5%)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport, (IATA: IAHICAO: KIAHFAA LID: IAH)[3] is a Class B international airport in Houston, Texas serving the Greater Houston metropolitan area, the fifth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Located about 23 miles (37 km) north of Downtown Houston,[3] between Interstate 45 and Interstate 69/U.S. Highway 59, George Bush Intercontinental Airport has scheduled flights to domestic and international destinations. The airport is named after George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.[4]

George Bush Intercontinental Airport served 40,187,442 passengers[5] in 2011 making the airport the tenth busiest for total passengers in North America. In 2006, the airport was named the fastest-growing of the top ten airports in the United States by the United States Department of Transportation. Houston Bush Intercontinental is the largest passenger carrying hub for United Airlines carrying 16.6 million passengers annually with an average of 45,413 passengers daily.[6] The airport also serves as focus city for Spirit Airlines.


The site for Bush Intercontinental Airport was originally purchased by a group of Houston businessmen in 1957 to preserve the site until the city of Houston could formulate a plan for a second airport, supplanting what was then known as Houston Municipal Airport (later renamed William P. Hobby Airport). The holding company for the land was named the Jet Era Ranch Corporation, but a typographical error transformed the words "Jet Era" into "Jetero" and the airport site subsequently became known as the Jetero airport site. Although the name Jetero was no longer used in official planning documents after 1961, the eastern entrance to the airport was named Jetero Boulevard. Most of Jetero Boulevard was subsequently renamed Will Clayton Parkway.[citation needed]

The City of Houston annexed the Bush Airport area in 1965. This annexation, along with the 1965 annexations of the Bayport area, the Fondren Road area, and an area west of Sharpstown, resulted in a total gain of 51,251 acres (20,741 ha) of land for the city limits.[7]

The Houston Airport System Administration Building is located on the airport grounds

Houston Intercontinental Airport, what it was originally known as, opened in June 1969.[4] All passenger traffic from William P. Hobby Airport moved to Intercontinental upon the airport's completion. Hobby remained open as a general aviation airport and reopened two years later when Southwest Airlines initiated domestic services.[8]

Houston Intercontinental had been scheduled to open in 1967, but design changes regarding the terminals created cost overruns and construction delays. The prime contractor, R.F. Ball Construction of San Antonio, sued the city of Houston for $11 million in damages, but assistant city attorney Joseph Guy Rollins, Jr. successfully defended the municipality on appeal to the Texas Supreme Court.[9]

In the late 1980s, Houston City Council considered a plan to rename the airport after Mickey Leland—an African-American congressman who died in an aviation accident in Ethiopia. Instead of renaming the whole airport, the city named Mickey Leland International Arrivals Building, which would later become Mickey Leland Terminal D, after the congressman. In April 1997, Houston City Council unanimously voted to rename the airport George Bush Intercontinental Airport/Houston, after George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.[4][10]

On August 28, 1990, Continental Airlines agreed to build its maintenance center at George Bush Intercontinental Airport; Continental agreed to do so because the city of Houston agreed to provide city-owned land near the airport so that Continental could build its maintenance facility there.[11]

As of 2007, Terminals A and B remain from the original design of the airport. Lewis W. Cutrer Terminal C opened in 1981, the Mickey Leland International Arrivals Building (now called Terminal D) opened in May 1990, and the new Terminal E partially opened on June 3, 2003. The rest of Terminal E opened on January 7, 2004. Terminal D is the arrival point for all international flights arriving into Houston except for flights operated by United Airlines which uses Terminal E. Terminal D also held customs and INS until the opening of the new Federal Inspection Service (FIS) building, completed on January 25, 2005.[12]

On January 7, 2009, a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-800 departing Bush Intercontinental was the first U.S. commercial jet to fly on a mix of conventional jet fuel and biofuel.[13]

In December 2009 the Houston City Council approved a plan to allow Midway Cos. to develop 10 acres (4.0 ha) of land owned by Houston Airport System on the grounds of Bush Airport. Midway plans to develop a travel center for the airport's rental car facility. The city dictated that the developer needed to place a convenience store and gas station facility, a flight information board, a fast casual restaurant, and a sit-down restaurant. Beyond the required buildings, the developer plans to add an office facility between 20,000 and 40,000 square feet (1,900 and 3,700 m2) and additional retail; the developer may add a hotel.[14]

In 2011 Continental Airlines began service to Lagos; this was the airport's first nonstop flight to Africa.[15] The airline was also planning to commence service to Auckland, New Zealand but plans for the Auckland service were cancelled because of new international flights at Hobby Airport (to be operated by Southwest Airlines).[16] United Airlines—which acquired Continental and had fully integrated it into the United brand by early 2012—had postponed the introduction of this service owing to delays associated with the Boeing 787,[17] but still hasn't begun the service with seven 787 Dreamliners currently in its fleet (as of November 2013). Its 787s have been put to use on other international routes, however, including Houston-London and United's new Houston-Lagos flights.[18] In 2014, United Airlines added a second daily flight to Tokyo, new routes to Munich, Germany, Santiago, Chile and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and restarted the Aruba route (which had been canceled in 2012).

Houston became the sixth U.S. city to have Airbus A380 service when Lufthansa transitioned its Houston-Frankfurt route from a 747-400 to an A380 service on August 1, 2012.[19]

On July 11, 2013, Air China began nonstop flights from Houston to Beijing, China using a Boeing 777-300ER. This is the airport's first nonstop route to mainland China.[20]

Houston also gained nonstop flights to Turkey when Turkish Airlines launched nonstop service to Istanbul on April 1, 2013.[21]

Korean Air commenced nonstop flights from Seoul to Houston on May 2, 2014.[22] Among other continental-Asia destinations, Singapore Airlines offers nonstop service between Houston and Moscow, continuing on from there to Singapore; Qatar Airways flies a nonstop Houston-Doha route; and Emirates flies nonstop from Houston to Dubai on the Airbus A380.

On March 31, 2014, Scandinavian Airlines announced that it will begin flights from Stavanger to Houston. This is the first time the airline has opened a route from its non-hub cities. The aircraft will be a leased 737 BBJ1 from PrivatAir. The aircraft will operate in SAS colors, in a 44 seat all business configuration.

On April 24, 2014, Spirit Airlines announced new services from Houston, to 6 new domestic destinations, including Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas City, New Orleans and San Diego. In addition, Spirit added seasonal service between Houston and Minneapolis. These new flights bring their total destinations from Houston to 12 locations, which makes Spirit the second largest domestic airline by destinations at Houston's IAH, behind United Airlines. During September 2014, Spirit sought approval from the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to launch service from Houston Intercontinental to Managua, San José, San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Cancun, San José del Cabo, Toluca.

In 2014, Taiwan-based carrier EVA Air announced that it will launch nonstop flights from Houston to Taipei on June 20, 2015 with three flights a week, on the 777-300ER. The frequency will be increased to four times a week starting July 2, 2015.[23] These flights will leave Houston in the early morning, about an hour past midnight. This will mark the first time that nonstop flights will commence between Taipei and any airport in Texas. In addition, All Nippon Airways also announced new 2015 service in 2014 from Narita International Airport, with flights on the 777-300ER to begin on June 12, 2015, becoming the first Japanese carrier to operate passenger operations at IAH.

On June 19, 2014, Emirates Airlines announced that it would become the second operator of the Airbus A380 at Intercontinental Airport, upgrading its service from Dubai to Houston from Boeing 777 to the "Super Jumbo" A380. Service began on December 3, 2014.

On September 17, 2014, Frontier Airlines released that they would begin to base aircraft from Houston's IAH, for their new Phoenix and San Francisco services, with the possibility of more destinations from Houston to come in the future.


George Bush Intercontinental Airport control tower
The Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center is on the airport grounds

George Bush Intercontinental Airport served 40,187,442 passengers[5] in 2011 making the airport the 10th busiest for total passengers in North America. IAH is the 7th largest international passenger gateway in the US[3] and the 7th busiest airport in the world for total aircraft movements. In 2006, the United States Department of Transportation named George Bush Intercontinental Airport the fastest growing of the top ten airports in the United States.[24] The Houston Airport System (HAS) states that the airport's service area includes the following Greater Houston counties: Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller.[25] The airport currently ranks fourth in the United States for non-stop domestic and international service with 182 destinations and about 45 percent of the airport's passengers begin or terminate (O&D) their journey at the airport.[26] Bush Intercontinental ranks first among the major United States airports with the highest on-time performance, according to a 2010 United States Department of Transportation report.[27] As of 2007, with 31 destinations in Mexico, the airport offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other United States airport.[28]

The Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center, located on the airport grounds at 16600 JFK Boulevard,[29] serves as the region's ARTCC.[30][31] The HAS administrative offices are also on the airport property.[31][32]


There are three main entrances into IAH's terminal areas. John F. Kennedy Boulevard is the main north-south artery into the airport and intersects with Greens Road becoming an expressway leading to the terminals (by traveling east on Greens Road, one can access the nearby Greenspoint business and residential district). Will Clayton Parkway, which runs east to west, is another main road for IAH. Interstate 69/U.S. Highway 59 (I-69/US 59) is connected to IAH by Will Clayton Parkway. The Hardy Tollway Connector runs from west to east connecting JFK Boulevard to the Hardy Toll Road.

The airport has a total of five terminals encompassing 250 acres (1.0 km2),[citation needed] with a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) distance from Terminal A to Terminal D.

Terminal A[edit]

Terminal A

Terminal A was one of the original two terminals to open in 1969 and was designed by Goleman & Rolfe and George Pierce-Abel B. Pierce.[33] Like Terminal B, it originally had four circular modules (called "Flight Stations" locally) at the end of corridors radiating out of the corners of the terminal. However, in the late-1990s and early-2000s, the North and South Concourses were rebuilt into linear facilities which provide a smoother operation within the terminal. The project was completed in 2002 and was designed by Gensler.[33] Terminal A has 20 gates, with 10 gates in the North Concourse[34] and 10 gates in the South Concourse.[35] Today the terminal handles all non-United domestic and Canada operations (including Air Canada Jazz commuter operations) and some United Express operations.

The food court areas are in the center of each concourse, near the departure gates. A small United Club is found in the North concourse.

Terminal B[edit]

Terminal B

Terminal B was also one of the original two terminals of the airport to open in 1969 and was also designed by Goleman & Rolfe and George Pierce-Abel B. Pierce.[33] It is mostly an unaltered terminal from its original design and is now used solely by United Express commuter flights. For this reason, the jet bridges are considerably lower to the ground than most others. There are 37 gates and 20 hardstand gates.[36] The terminal serves all United Express operations except for international arrivals. The terminal underwent minor renovations from 1997 to 2001, designed by Gensler.[33] In 2011 the City of Houston announced that it would demolish the gate areas of Terminal B and rebuild them. The architect for the project is Pierce, Goodwin, Alexander & Linville.[37] The first phase of the terminal's renovation broke ground on January 23, 2012.[38] Phase one of the project was completed in April 2013, and the first 15 gates of the new South Concourse opened for operations on May 21, 2013.[39] The remaining gates have been completed and put in use as of 2014. This brings the total number of gates on the South Concourse to 30 (both types).

Terminal C[edit]

Terminal C (also known as Lewis W. Cutrer Terminal[40]) was the third terminal to open at the airport following A and B in 1981. It was designed by the Houston firm of Airport Architects, a joint venture of Golemon & Rolfe Architects and Pierce and Pierce Architects.[33] It serves as United Airlines' main base of domestic operations. The airline operate two United Clubs in the terminal - by gate C33 in the South Concourse and by gate C24 in the North Concourse. Terminal C has 31 gates.[41] The terminal includes the airport's interfaith chapel.[42] The terminal underwent renovations from 2000 to 2005 and was designed by Gensler.[33]

Terminal D[edit]

Corridor leading to Terminal E and Terminal D

Terminal D (also known as Mickey Leland Terminal) opened in 1990 as the International Arrivals Building (IAB) and was later renamed the Mickey Leland International Arrivals Building. The US$95 million terminal was designed by Golemon and Folfe Architects, Pierce Goodwin Alexander, James L. Marshall Associates, and Molina and Associates,.[43]

The IAB, equipped with a Federal Inspection Facility (FIS) and US Customs services, consolidated all international arrivals into one terminal. Since the opening of Terminal E/FIS, Terminal D now houses all non-United international flights except for United Express international arrivals. In Terminal D airlines share gates, ticket counters, and terminal equipment, making it a "common use" facility. It is the first "common use facility" to be established in the United States. The Terminal D food court is located in the departures area.[44] In 2007 the airport authority began renovations in which 20 additional common-use ticket counters, upscale retail and restaurant shops, and new on-airport spa/beauty lounge will be added over the next few years.[45]

Terminal D has 12 gates and several international lounges, including two separate British Airways Galleries Lounges (First and Club), a Lufthansa Senator, a KLM Crown, an Air France, and an Executive Lounge for Singapore, Emirates, Qatar, and Lufthansa.[46]

On June 18, 2014, Houston City Council unanimously passed a memorandum of agreement establishing plans to demolish the existing Terminal D building and construct a new facility on the same site.[47] Plans call for the terminal to have gates for 15 large wide-body jets, including four Airbus A380 capable gates, as well as a more open design and modern appearance. Construction on Terminal D will not start until the Terminal B North Concourse Project is finished in 2017.

Terminal E[edit]

Terminal E

Terminal E is IAH's newest terminal, and houses United's international operations and some domestic operations. The terminal was designed by Corgan Associates and Spencer Partnership Architects,[33] and it opened in two phases. The first phase opened in 2002 with 14 gates, and the second phase added 16 gates in 2003 for a total of 30.[48] United operates one large, 3-floor, United Club in Terminal E between Gates E11 and E12. Originally Continental (before merging with United) used the terminal solely for domestic flights, but relocated its international services to the new terminal after the new Federal Inspection Service (FIS) building opened. The terminal was designed for maximum flexibility, with jetways that were able to handle any aircraft. Currently, all United international mainline flights arrive at Terminal E while all United Express international flights arrive at Terminals D and E, then depart out of Terminal B. In addition to international flights, some larger United domestic mainline flights also operate out of the terminal.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Airlines Destinations Terminal
Aeroméxico Seasonal: Cancún, Mexico City D
Aeroméxico Connect Mexico City, Monterrey D
Air Canada Express Calgary, Toronto–Pearson A
Air China Beijing–Capital D
Air France Paris–Charles de Gaulle D
Alaska Airlines Seattle/Tacoma A
All Nippon Airways Tokyo–Narita (begins June 12, 2015)[49] D
American Airlines Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami A
American Eagle Chicago–O'Hare, Los Angeles A
Avianca El Salvador San Salvador
Seasonal: Roatán
British Airways London–Heathrow D
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Salt Lake City
Seasonal: Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul
Delta Connection Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-LaGuardia, Salt Lake City A
Emirates Dubai-International D
EVA Air Taipei-Taoyuan (begins June 19, 2015)[50] D
Frontier Airlines Denver, Phoenix, San Francisco
Seasonal: Philadelphia (begins April 30, 2015)[51]
Interjet Monterrey D
KLM Amsterdam D
Korean Air Seoul-Incheon D
Lufthansa Frankfurt D
Qatar Airways Doha D
Scandinavian Airlines
operated by PrivatAir
Stavanger D
Singapore Airlines Moscow–Domodedovo, Singapore D
operated by Atlas Air
Charter: Luanda D
Spirit Airlines Atlanta, Baltimore, Cancún (begins May 7, 2015), Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Managua (begins May 28, 2015), New Orleans, Oakland (begins April 16, 2015), Orlando, San Diego, San José de Costa Rica (begins May 28, 2015), San Pedro Sula (begins May 28, 2015), San Salvador (begins May 28, 2015), Tampa
Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul, San José del Cabo (begins May 7, 2015), Toluca/Mexico City (begins May 7, 2015)[52]
A, D
Turkish Airlines Istanbul–Atatürk D
United Airlines Albuquerque, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Calgary, Chicago–O'Hare, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, McAllen (begins June 6, 2015), Miami, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Orange County (CA), Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland (OR), Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), San Juan, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Vancouver, Washington–Dulles, Washington–National
Seasonal: Anchorage, Atlanta, Eagle/Vail, Gunnison/Crested Butte, Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Jackson Hole, Minneapolis/St. Paul (begins July 2, 2015),[53] Montrose, Nashville (begins July 2, 2015), Reno/Tahoe, Saint Thomas (begins June 6, 2015),[54] West Palm Beach
C, E
United Airlines Amsterdam, Belize City, Bogotá, Bonaire, Buenos Aires–Ezeiza, Cancún, Caracas, Cozumel, Frankfurt, Grand Cayman, Guadalajara, Guatemala City, Lagos, Liberia, Lima, London–Heathrow, Managua, Mérida, Mexico City, Montego Bay, Monterrey, Munich, Panama City, Port of Spain, Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Quito, Rio de Janeiro–Galeão, Roatán, San José de Costa Rica, San José del Cabo, San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Santiago de Chile, São Paulo–Guarulhos, Tegucigalpa, Tokyo–Narita
Seasonal: Aruba, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Nassau, Providenciales (begins June 6, 2015)[55]
United Express Acapulco, Aguascalientes, Albuquerque, Alexandria, Amarillo, Atlanta, Austin, Bakersfield, Baton Rouge, Birmingham (AL), Boise, Brownsville, Calgary, Charleston (SC), Charleston (WV), Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Chihuahua, Cincinnati, Ciudad del Carmen, Cleveland, College Station, Colorado Springs, Columbia (SC), Columbus (OH), Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Des Moines, Detroit, Durango, Edmonton, El Paso, Fayetteville/Bentonville, Fort Walton Beach, Grand Junction, Grand Rapids, Greenville/Spartanburg, Guadalajara, Gulfport/Biloxi, Harlingen, Hartford/Springfield, Hobbs, Huatulco, Huntsville, Indianapolis, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Jackson (MS), Jacksonville (FL), Kansas City, Killeen/Fort Hood, Knoxville, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Laredo, León/Del Bajío, Lexington, Little Rock, Louisville, Lubbock, Manzanillo, McAllen, Memphis, Mexico City, Midland–Odessa, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Mobile, Monroe, Monterrey, Montréal–Trudeau, Morelia, Nashville, New Orleans, Norfolk, Oaxaca, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Ontario, Panama City (FL), Pensacola, Peoria, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Puebla, Querétaro, Raleigh/Durham, Richmond, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San José del Cabo, San Luis Potosí, Savannah, Shreveport, St. Louis, Tampico, Toronto–Pearson, Torreón/Gómez Palacio, Tucson, Tulsa, Tyler, Veracruz, Villahermosa, Washington–Dulles, West Palm Beach, Wichita, Williston
Seasonal: Aspen, Bozeman, Fort Myers, Jackson Hole, Miami, Montrose, Nassau, Orlando, Palm Springs, Rapid City, Reno/Tahoe
A, B, C, D, E
US Airways Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix A
US Airways Express Seasonal: Philadelphia A
Vacation Express
operated by Sunwing Airlines
Seasonal: Freeport (begins May 24, 2015)[56] D
VivaAerobus Cancún, Guadalajara, Monterrey D
Volaris Guadalajara D
WestJet Calgary (begins September 8, 2015)[57] A

Other services[edit]

Atlas Air offers a thrice-weekly charter service to Luanda, Angola on behalf of SonAir. Atlas Air replaced World Airways in June 2010.[58] These charter flights are intended to service companies operating in the oil industry in Angola which are members of the US/Africa Energy Association (USAEA).[59]

United Airlines offers thrice-daily bus service to Beaumont, TX, which replaced its air service on July 1, 2012.


Destinations with service from IAH
A United Airlines Boeing 787-8 parked at a Terminal E gate
Busiest international routes from Houston Intercontinental (2013)[60]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Mexico City, Mexico 697,156 Aeromexico, United
2 Cancún, Mexico 561,845 Aeromexico, United
3 London (Heathrow), United Kingdom 557,362 British Airways, United
4 Frankfurt, Germany 452,250 Lufthansa, United
5 Calgary, Canada 416,465 Air Canada, United
6 Amsterdam, Netherlands 310,068 KLM, United
7 San Jose, Costa Rica 305,956 United
8 Monterrey, Mexico 250,847 United, VivaAerobus
9 Toronto, Canada 234,525 Air Canada, United
10 Guatemala City, Guatemala 226,065 United
11 San Salvador, El Salvador 210,997 Avianca El Salvador, United
12 Panama City, Panama 197,449 United
13 Dubai, United Arab Emirates 183,367 Emirates
14 Tokyo (Narita), Japan 173,103 United
15 Guadalajara, Mexico 170,283 United
16 Bogotá, Colombia 195,156 United
17 Doha, Qatar 167,809 Qatar Airways
18 Belize City, Belize 157,946 United
19 San José del Cabo, Mexico 153,597 United
20 Paris, France 151,415 Air France
Busiest domestic routes from Houston Intercontinental (December 2013 - November 2014)[61]
Rank City Passengers Top carriers
1 Los Angeles, CA 730,810 American, Spirit, United, US Airways
2 Denver, CO 704,300 Frontier, Spirit, United
3 Chicago, IL 651,130 American, Spirit, United
4 Dallas/Fort Worth, TX 507,980 American, United
5 San Francisco, CA 500,000 United
6 Newark, NJ 479,970 United
7 Las Vegas, NV 455,150 Spirit, United
8 Atlanta, GA 470,060 Delta, United, Spirit
9 Charlotte, NC 426,333 United, US Airways
10 Orlando, FL 421,730 Spirit, United

Terminal transportation[edit]

TerminaLink train that runs between terminals.

An above ground train called TerminaLink connects Terminals A, B, C, D, E and the International Arrivals Building (IAB) for those with connecting flights in different terminals and provides sterile airside connections. This allows passengers to travel within the airport without having to re-enter security. TerminaLink has four stops: Terminal A, Terminal B, Terminal C, and Terminals D/E including the IAB. The airport has expanded the line to Terminal A at a cost of US $100 million. Construction began on the extension in early 2008 and was completed in 2010.[62]

An underground inter-terminal train outside of the sterile zone connects all five terminals and the airport hotel which can be accessed by all. This system is based on the WEDway PeopleMover technology developed by the Walt Disney Company.[63]

In addition United Airlines has started a VIP terminal transportation service for elite status customers, using Mercedes Benz vehicles.[64]


The airport houses an on-site hotel, a Marriott, between Terminals B and C and is accessible via the inter-terminal train. The hotel has 566 rooms, two restaurants, a cocktail lounge, a coffee shop and a conference center.[65] The hotel is currently undergoing a total hotel renovation, set to be completed in December of 2015. There will be a new lobby, restaurant and bar, and all new sleeping rooms.[66]

Ground transportation[edit]

Main entrance to the airport


From Downtown Houston one can travel to George Bush Intercontinental by taking Interstate 69/U.S. Route 59 (Eastex Freeway) to Beltway 8 or to Will Clayton Parkway, and access the airport from either road. From Downtown one could also take Interstate 45 (North Freeway), connect to Beltway 8, and enter the airport from the Beltway.[44] The Hardy Toll Road has an exit from the north or south to the airport.


The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas, or METRO, offers bus service available at the south side of Terminal C. The 102 Bush IAH Express serves the airport. Previously, METRO also operated an express bus service known as Airport Direct, launched in the summer of 2008, which traveled from Downtown Houston to Terminal C via the HOV lane of the Eastex Freeway (I-69)/(US 59).[67][68][69] In 2010, in an effort to increase ridership and maximize revenue, METRO reduced the fare of Airport Direct and closed a dedicated passenger plaza for the service in Downtown Houston; instead, the bus stopped at several downtown hotels.[70] The fare each way was reduced from $15 to $4.50. The fare change increased ridership levels but decreased cash flow. METRO consistently provided the service at an operational loss.[71] However, in the summer of 2011, METRO announced that it was discontinuing the Airport Direct service, while the Route 102 local service (which serves the greater Greenspoint business and residential district before traveling on I-45 to access downtown) continued to operate.[72]

Courtesy vans[edit]

Courtesy vans are operated by various hotels and motels in and around the Houston Area. There are courtesy telephones in the baggage claim areas to request pick-up for most hotels and motels.[67]

Shuttle service[edit]

Regularly scheduled bus and shuttle service is provided by various carriers to locations from IAH to NRG Park/NRG Astrodome, Downtown Houston, Uptown, Greenway Plaza, the Texas Medical Center, hotels in the Westchase and Energy Corridor business districts, the city of College Station and William P. Hobby Airport. Super Shuttle also provides service from George Bush Intercontinental Airport to the surrounding communities via shared vans.[67]


Taxis can be hailed through the Ground Transportation employees outside each terminal. All destinations within Houston's city limits to/from Bush Intercontinental Airport are charged according to the flat Zone Rate or the meter rate.[67] Within a 15-minute cab ride, one can access Deerbrook Mall in Humble and the Greenspoint business district. Within a 45-minute cab ride, one can access the Houston Museum District, The Galleria, and the city arboretum.[44]

Taxi drivers at Bush airport wait longer to be dispatched for pickups of passengers than drivers at other airports in major U.S. cities. Josh Harkinson of the Houston Press said "Houston cabbies can easily wait six hours." The lives of many taxi drivers working at the airport revolve around the airport's taxi lot, nicknamed "Cabbieville." Taxi drivers servicing the airport come from many countries around the world.[73]


Flag posts of G7 member countries plus the European Union titled "Light Spikes" located outside the airport entrance

Ed Carpenter's "Light Wings", a multicolored glass sculpture suspended below a sky light, adorns the Terminal A North Concourse.[74] In Terminal A, South Concourse stands Terry Allen's "Countree Music." Allen's piece is a cast bronze tree that plays instrumental music by Joe Ely and David Byrne, though the music is normally turned off. The corridor leading to Terminal A displays Leamon Green's "Passing Through," a 200-foot (61 m) etched glass wall depicting airport travelers.[75]

The elevators in Terminal B are cased in stainless steel accordion shaped structures designed by Rachel Hecker.[76] The corridor leading to Terminal B has Dixie Friend Gay's "Houston Bayou." This work is composed of an 8 ft × 75 ft (2.4 m × 22.9 m) Byzantine glass mosaic mural depicting scenes from Houston's bayous and wetlands, several bronze animals embedded in the floor, and five mosaic columns.

Lights Spikes Jay Baker, shown in the photo, was created for the 1990 G7 Summit when it was hosted by President George H. W. Bush in Houston. The sculpture was relocated to the airport outside of E Terminal after the meetings from its original location in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The distance between each "spike" and this point is relative to the distance between Houston and the capital of the country the flags represent. The countries represented are the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Canada, Italy and Germany, as well as the European community and the columns lean at a ten-degree angle toward a central point that represents Houston.[77] The airport has a display of lighted modern sculptures between terminals C and D.[44]


George Bush Intercontinental ranks as the 12th-largest gateway in the United States in terms of international air cargo moved. The facility moved 389,075 metric tons of cargo in 2010.[3]

In January 2003, the Houston Airport System decided to create a new 125 million dollar, 550,000 square feet (51,095 square meters), called the George Bush Intercontinental CargoCenter.[78]

The facility can handle up to 20 widebody aircraft at one time and has expanded to an operational area of 880,000 sq ft (82,000 m2) over the last five years. The CargoCenter has its own separate Federal Inspection Facitilty (FIS) that houses Customs, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), United States Department of Agriculture, and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.[79]

The facility also includes the International Air CargoCenter II, a 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) perishable cargo handling facility. It is located in the IAH CargoCenter and offer direct ramp access for cargo airlines as well as importers and distributors of perishable goods.[80] The center is recoginized as an official Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF).[81]

For five years in a row, Air Cargo Inc has honored Bush Intercontinental Airport with the ACE Award for Excellence in the category of airports with less than 500,000 tons of air cargo annually.[82]

Trade data[edit]

  • Europe 44%
  • Asia 23%
  • Middle East 16%
  • Africa 8%
  • Latin America 7%
  • North America 1%[83]

Freight airlines[edit]

Airlines Destinations
ABX Air (DHL) Cincinnati, Miami
Air Cargo Carriers Austin
Air France Cargo Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Atlas Air Luanda, Luxembourg, Miami
Ameriflight New Orleans
Ameristar Air Cargo Laredo, Minneapolis/St.Paul
Baron Aviation Services (FedEx Feeder) College Station
Cargolux Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Glasgow-Prestwick, Guadalajara, Luxembourg, Mexico City, Miami, New York–JFK
Cathay Pacific Cargo Anchorage, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
China Airlines Cargo Anchorage, Chicago–O'Hare, Miami
Emirates SkyCargo Copenhagen, Dubai–Al Maktoum, Mexico City, Zaragoza
EVA Airways Cargo Anchorage, Atlanta, Chicago–O'Hare
FedEx Express El Paso, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Memphis
Lufthansa Cargo (AeroLogic) Frankfurt, Stavanger [84]
Martinaire (UPS) Addison, San Antonio
Polar Air Cargo Los Angeles, Panama City
Qatar Airways Cargo[85] Doha, Liège, Luxembourg, Mexico City
Southern Air Miami
Transcarga[86] Miami
UPS Airlines Chicago/Rockford, Louisville

Master plan[edit]

The city of Houston presented its master plan update for IAH in 2005.[87] The near-term plan calls for Terminal B's circular flight stations to be rebuilt into linear facilities similar to Terminal A. Construction of a new 155,000-square-foot (14,400 m2) pier at Terminal D, capable of handling six additional wide body aircraft, is slated for completion in 2016.[88]

The long-term plans call for the existing unit terminals to be demolished and the North and South Concourses to be linked midway. Soon after, all of the facilities in the North and South Concourses will be linked together to form two long continuous facilities. In addition, a new Central Passenger Processing facility will also be built, called the East Terminal along with an underground people mover.

Airfield improvements include a new Runway 8C-26C, a new Runway 9R-27L, a perimeter taxiway, and access roadways.[89][90] If the FAA selects new sites for runways, the FAA may buy land from the Glen Lee Place and Heather Ridge Village subdivisions, which are located off of Lee Road.[91]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

The following involved flights departing or arriving at the airport or incidents within the terminal buildings:

  • 1973: National Airlines Flight 27: Depressurization ejected a passenger after the fan assembly disintegrated en route to McCarran International Airport.[92]
  • 1975: February 1, Douglas DC-3 N15HC of Horizon Properties crashed on approach when the port wing collided with an electricity pylon. The aircraft was on a domestic non-scheduled passenger flight from Lawton Municipal Airport, Oklahoma to Huntsville Regional Airport, Texas. Due to weather conditions, the flight was diverted to Houston. Of the 16 occupants,[93] two crew and three passengers were killed.[94]
  • 1990: Executive/Grumman G1 Operated by Rowan Drilling Company: Power loss in engine after take-off resulted in a failed attempt to regain altitude en route to New Orleans International Airport. The aircraft crashed on departure from Runway 15L and came to rest midfield along a parallel taxiway. There were three fatalities.[95]
  • 1991: Continental Express Flight 2574 (Britt Airways): Broke into pieces en route from Laredo to Houston Intercontinental. There were 14 fatalities.[96]
  • On February 19, 1996, a Continental Airlines McDonnell Douglas DC-9-32 operating as Continental Airlines Flight 1943 from Ronald Reagan National Airport arriving in Houston, Texas landed with its landing gear in the stowed position on Runway 27. The aircraft slid for 6,915 feet (2,108 m) on its belly before coming to a stop on the runway 140 feet (43 m) left of the runway centerline approximately at the departure end of the runway. There were no fatalities and only minor injuries. The aircraft was written off.[97]
  • On December 20, 2008, a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 operating as Flight 1404 from Denver International Airport in Denver, Colorado to Bush Airport overran Runway 34R, and caught fire during its takeoff roll. There was no snow or ice on the runway; however, there were 31-knot (36 mph) crosswinds at the time of the accident. On July 13, 2010 the NTSB report stated that the probable cause of this accident was the captain's cessation of right rudder input, which was needed to maintain directional control of the airplane, about 4 seconds before the excursion, when the airplane encountered a strong and gusty crosswind that exceeded the captain's training and experience. Of the 115 people on board, at least 38 sustained injuries, at least two of these were injured critically.[98][99][100]
  • On May 2, 2013, gunman Carnell Marcus Moore of Beaumont, Texas fired shots from a Glock semi-automatic pistol into the ceiling of a terminal. A Homeland Security officer fired upon and wounded Moore in the right shoulder before Moore shot himself. There was an AR-15 rifle in a suitcase that was not used, while a suicide note was found stating he had a "monster within" and he wanted police to stop him before he hurt others[101]


See also[edit]


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External links[edit]

Media related to George Bush Intercontinental Airport at Wikimedia Commons