El Paso International Airport

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El Paso International Airport
El Paso Intl Logo.svg
Airport typePublic
OwnerCity of El Paso
OperatorEl Paso Aviation Department
LocationEl Paso, Texas, U.S.
Elevation AMSL3,958 ft / 1,206 m
Coordinates31°48′26″N 106°22′39″W / 31.80722°N 106.37750°W / 31.80722; -106.37750Coordinates: 31°48′26″N 106°22′39″W / 31.80722°N 106.37750°W / 31.80722; -106.37750
ELP is located in Texas
ELP is located in the United States
ELP (the United States)
Direction Length Surface
ft m
04/22 12,020 3,664 Asphalt
08R/26L 9,025 2,751 Asphalt
08L/26R 5,499 1,670 Asphalt
Statistics (2021)
Total Passengers2,821,329
Aircraft operations88,838

El Paso International Airport (EPIA, (IATA: ELP, ICAO: KELP, FAA LID: ELP), Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de El Paso) is four miles (6 km) northeast of downtown El Paso, in El Paso County, Texas, United States. It is the largest civil airport in West Texas. It handled 3,516,911 passengers in 2019.[2]


The City of El Paso built the first El Paso Municipal Airport near the east side of the Franklin Mountains in 1928. The airport was closed by 1945 and in more recent times has been home to the Jobe Concrete Products "Planeport" cement factory.[3] In 1934 Varney Speed Lines (now United Airlines) operated at the original El Paso Municipal Airport (now closed). The original El Paso Municipal Airport construction was inspired by a visit from Charles Lindbergh.[citation needed]

What became today's El Paso International Airport was built as Standard Airport by Standard Airlines in 1929 for transcontinental air mail service. Standard Airlines became a division of American Airlines in the 1930s. In 1936 American Airlines "swapped" airports with the City of El Paso and El Paso International Airport was born.[3]

During World War II, the airport was a United States Army Air Forces training base. Units which trained at El Paso Army Airfield were:

  • 385th Bombardment Group (Heavy) (B-17 Flying Fortress) December 21, 1942 – February 1, 1943
    • Served with the 8th Air Force in England.
  • 491st Bombardment Group (Heavy) (B-24 Liberator) November 11, 1943 – January 1, 1944
    • Served with the 8th Air Force in England.
  • 497th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) (B-29 Superfortress) November 20–December 1, 1943
    • Served with the 20th Air Force at Saipan.

On August 3, 1961, El Paso was the last stop of the first major US hijacking of a jetliner, a Boeing 707 owned by Continental Airlines.[4]

ELP in 1996

An expansion that tripled the size of the terminal occurred in 1971. A new structure for ticketing and bag claim was built in front of the old terminal and two passenger concourses were built behind the old terminal, retaining the old terminal in the middle, the outline of which can still be recognized today.[5] It was designed by Garland & Hilles.[6]

Serving general aviation at El Paso International Airport, Cutter Aviation established a fixed-base operation in 1982. Cutter Aviation moved to a new facility on Shuttle Columbia Drive in 2006. Atlantic Aviation also serves general aviation at ELP.

Historical airline service[edit]

Terminal entrance in 1957

Standard Air Lines began the first scheduled commercial passenger and mail service to El Paso on February 4, 1928 with a route to Los Angeles making stops in Douglas, Tucson, and Phoenix, Arizona. The carrier began using a Fokker F-7 aircraft and soon upgraded to a Fokker F-10 trimotor. Maddux Air Lines soon followed beginning service on February 23, 1929 with nearly the same route as Standard Air Lines however Maddux continued on from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Maddux used a Ford trimotor aircraft but the service ended later in 1929 by the time of the great stock market crash. Western Air Express replaced Standard on the route to Los Angeles for a short time in 1930 and extended service eastward from El Paso to Dallas stopping at Big Spring, Abilene, and Fort Worth, Texas. American Airways then took over the route beginning on October 15, 1930 and later extended the route eastward all the way to New York, stopping at Little Rock, Memphis, Nashville, and Washington D.C. as well as several other points. The carrier changed its name to American Airlines in 1934. Douglas DC-3 aircraft were primarily used in the latter 1930s through 1940s followed by Convair 240's and Douglas DC-6's in the 1950s. A new route to Monterrey and Mexico City, Mexico was flown from 1943 through 1957 and direct service to San Francisco was added in 1948. Through the 1950s, American partnered with Continental Airlines offering an interchange service where American's flights from Los Angeles and San Francisco, stopping in Phoenix, would continue eastward through El Paso as Continental's flights to San Antonio and Houston using the same Douglas DC-6 aircraft. The interchange flights ended in 1961 when American received its own authority to serve the El Paso-San Antonio-Houston route. American Boeing 707 and Boeing 727 jets began serving El Paso in the early 1960s and widebody Douglas DC-10 jets began service on nonstop flights to Dallas in 1972. The stop at Douglas, Arizona on westbound flights ended in the mid-1960s and new nonstop service to Chicago was added in 1969. Direct flights to San Antonio, Houston, Tucson, and San Francisco ended after airline deregulation in 1978 and American's service to Dallas, Chicago, Phoenix, and Los Angeles continues today.

From 1929 to 1931, Mid-Continent Air Express operated a route from El Paso to Denver stopping at Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Vegas NM, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs. From 1931 through 1934, Western Air Express took over this route and extended it onto Cheyenne, WY.

Control Tower in 1957

Continental Airlines was the second major airline to serve El Paso. The carrier began as Varney Speed Lines in 1934 operating the northerly route from El Paso but only to Pueblo, Colorado with stops at Albuquerque and several other points in New Mexico and Colorado. The name was changed to Continental Air Lines in 1937 and the route was extended back to Denver. A new route to Carlsbad, Hobbs, and Roswell, New Mexico was added in 1940 followed by new routes to San Antonio and to Kansas City with several stops by the mid 1940s. Continental primarily used Lockheed Model 10 Electra and Lockheed Model 18 Lodestar aircraft in the 1930s followed by Douglas DC-3's in the 1940s. Larger Convair 240, Convair 340, and Douglas DC-6 aircraft were introduced in the 1950s followed by the Vickers Viscount by 1959. The San Antonio route was extended to Houston by the early 1950s at which time Continental partnered with American Airlines to offer interchange service from Houston and San Antonio to Los Angeles and San Francisco by way of El Paso. Service to Alamogordo, New Mexico was added in 1954 but discontinued in 1963, transferring the route to Frontier Airlines. New nonstop service to Dallas began in 1959 and in the early 1960s Continental received its own authority to operate westbound from El Paso to Los Angeles with stops in Tucson and Phoenix. Jet service began in the early 1960s with Boeing 707 and Boeing 720 jets on the Los Angeles-El Paso-Houston route which also made stops at Phoenix, Tucson, Midland, and San Antonio. Douglas DC-9 jets arrived in 1966 which began jet service on the routes to Dallas, Albuquerque and Denver, and also the route to Kansas City that stopped in Midland, Lubbock, and Wichita Falls, Texas as well as Lawton, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. The service to the smaller cities in southeastern New Mexico ended in 1963 (retiring the DC-3 aircraft) and was transferred to Trans Texas Airlines. Continental was operating all jets by 1967 and El Paso became a small hub through the 1970s with up to five flights on the ground at a time using a new rotunda shaped gate area on the end of the east concourse. A widebody Douglas DC-10 was operated on a Los-Angeles-El Paso-San Antonio-Houston flight, eastbound only, in the latter 1970s. Service to the Mexican resort cities of Acapulco, La Paz, Los Cabos, Manzanillo, and Puerto Vallarta was operated from 1979 through 1981. After airline deregulation in 1978, Continental slowly downsized its El Paso operation to flights only serving its hubs at Denver and Houston. For a few years in the early 1990s, nonstop flights to Mexico City were operated. Continental Express service to Alamogordo, Carlsbad, and Roswell, New Mexico was briefly operated in 1987. The Denver flights ended in 1994 and new Continental Express service with regional jets began replacing Continental's mainline jets to Houston in the 2000s. Continental merged into United Airlines in 2012.

Trans-Texas Airways was the third carrier to serve El Paso. Trans-Texas began operating in 1947 solely within the state of Texas and El Paso was the western terminus for flights from Dallas and Houston that made many stops at small communities throughout central and west Texas. Trans-Texas operated Douglas DC-3 aircraft and flights from El Paso would stop at Marfa, Alpine, Pecos, Ft. Stockton, and several other communities. In 1963 new routes were established to Carlsbad, Hobbs, and Roswell, New Mexico while the initial routes to most of the small Texas cities were discontinued. Larger Convair 240 and Convair 600 aircraft replaced the DC-3's in the mid 1960s. In 1969 the carrier changed its name to Texas International Airlines and new Douglas DC-9 jets began flights from El Paso to Houston making stops in Midland, San Angelo, and Austin. These flights ended in 1971. For the next several years only a single flight to Carlsbad, Hobbs, Big Spring, Brownwood, and Dallas was operated using a Convair-600. A DC-9 jet flight to Dallas, stopping in Roswell and Midland, operated for a period in 1975. All service to El Paso ended in 1977 but was reinstated in 1980 when nonstop jet flights to Dallas began. Texas International merged into Continental Airlines in 1982 at which time the Dallas flights had ended.

Frontier Airlines (1950-1986) began a route from El Paso to Phoenix in 1950 that made stops in Las Cruces, Deming, Silver City and Lordsburg, New Mexico as well as Clifton, Safford, Globe, and Superior, Arizona. Douglas DC-3 aircraft were used and the service ended in 1955. Frontier returned to El Paso in 1963 with a route to Alamogordo and Albuquerque, New Mexico which eventually continued to Salt Lake City. Convair 580 aircraft were used on this route and in 1967 Frontier began nonstop flights to Albuquerque and onto Denver with Boeing 727 jets. The 727's were later swapped out with Boeing 737-200 jets and new service to several points in Mexico was established from 1978 through 1984. These Mexican destinations included Guadalajara, Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo, Manzanillo, Mazatlán, and Puerto Vallarta. Frontier ceased operating in 1986 and a new Frontier Airlines was established in 1994 with Boeing 737 flights to Albuquerque and Denver.

Southwest Airlines began flights from El Paso to Dallas, Lubbock, and Midland/Odessa in 1977 using Boeing 737-200's and continually added new service becoming the largest carrier at El Paso by the early 1980s. Delta Airlines and United Airlines also began service in the 1980s.

Since airline deregulation went into effect in late 1978, many other carriers have served El Paso including Eastern Airlines, Western Airlines, America West Airlines, USAir, Northwest Airlines, TWA, Aerolitoral (feeder carrier for AeroMexico), and Lineas Aereas Azteca. At least 15 smaller commuter airlines have also provided service to points in southern New Mexico, southeast Arizona, and to Chihuahua, Mexico from the 1960s through the 1990s.[7]


El Paso International Airport arrivals and security hall, from an aircraft at the A concourse

El Paso International Airport covers 6,670 acres (2,699 ha) and has three runways:[1]

  • 4/22: 12,020 ft × 150 ft (3,664 m × 46 m), asphalt
  • 8R/26L: 9,025 ft × 150 ft (2,751 m × 46 m), asphalt
  • 8L/26R: 5,499 ft × 75 ft (1,676 m × 23 m), asphalt

Main terminal[edit]

Entering airport terminal
Baggage claim area

The terminal is a pier-satellite layout. It has a central entrance and the gates branch out east to west on the two concourses. The airport has East and West Concourses. Gates A1–A4 are located on the West Concourse and Gates B1–B11 is located on the East Concourse. The airport has a total of 15 gates. There is also a lower and upper level. The gates are located on the upper level and the ticketing, baggage claim, rental car, and main entrance are located on the lower level of the terminal. The meeter/greeter area is located on the lower level just behind the escalators that lead to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint leading to the gates. The corridor from the ticketing/baggage claim to the gate concourses passes through the old terminal which is used today for airport administration. Major terminal renovations have been made over the past several years, designed and managed by the local architectural firm MNK Architects.

Airlines customer service section

The airport access road is Convair Road. Convair Road splits into four lanes with the left two lanes reserved for commercial vehicles and the right two lanes utilized for pickup and drop-off of passengers. In between the split road there is a waiting area where passengers can wait for commercial vehicles to arrive.

Gates: Generally, these gates are used by: Gates A1–A4: American Airlines and American Eagle. Gate B1: Delta Air Lines. Gates B3, B5-B7: Southwest Airlines Gate B10 Allegiant. Gates B8 and B9: United Airlines and United Express. Gate B4: Alaska. Gate B11: Frontier.

Food court: The food court is between gates B6 and B11; it has Carlos and Mickey's Mexican Express, Pizza Hut Express, Quizno's and Starbucks.

Other facilities[edit]

The El Paso Independent School District (EPISD) began leasing a property on the grounds of the airport in 1963 to house its administrative headquarters. By the 2010s the City of El Paso desired the use of the property for airport expansion, but chose to defer the original 2014 expiration of the lease to at least December 31, 2019 so EPISD had time to find a new headquarters location.[8] In 2021 the current EPISD headquarters in Downtown El Paso opened.[9]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

El Paso International Airport has 15 gates on 2 concourses: Concourse A (used exclusively by American) has gates A1–A4 and Concourse B has gates B1–B11.


Air traffic control tower
Alaska Airlines Seattle/Tacoma [10]
Allegiant Air Las Vegas
Seasonal: Orlando/Sanford, San Diego
American Airlines Charlotte (suspended), Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix–Sky Harbor [12]
American Eagle Austin, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Phoenix–Sky Harbor [12]
Delta Air Lines Atlanta [13]
Frontier Airlines Denver, Las Vegas,[14] Orlando[15] [16]
Southwest Airlines Austin, Dallas–Love, Denver, Houston–Hobby, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, San Antonio, San Diego [17]
United Airlines Seasonal: Denver [18]
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Houston–Intercontinental [18]


Amerijet International Miami
DHL Aviation Cincinnati, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles
FedEx Express Austin, Fort Worth, Houston–Intercontinental, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Memphis, San Antonio
GTA Air Dallas–Addison
UPS Airlines Albuquerque, Dallas/Fort Worth, Lubbock, Ontario, San Antonio


Passenger traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at ELP airport. See source Wikidata query.

Top destinations[edit]

Airport clock tower
Busiest domestic routes from ELP (May 2021 – April 2022)[19]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 356,000 American
2 Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Arizona 221,000 American, Southwest
3 Dallas–Love, Texas 153,000 Southwest
4 Denver, Colorado 115,000 Frontier, Southwest, United
5 Las Vegas, Nevada 113,000 Allegiant, Southwest
6 Austin, Texas 103,000 American, Southwest
7 Houston–Hobby, Texas 102,000 Southwest
8 Atlanta, Georgia 99,000 Delta
9 Houston–Intercontinental, Texas 85,000 United
10 Los Angeles, California 83,000 American, Southwest

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On August 31, 1957, a USAF Douglas C-124 Globemaster II struck the ground while on approach in poor weather 2.5 miles NE of ELP. Five out of the 15 occupants on board died.[20]
  • On July 20, 1982, Douglas C-47D N102BL of Pronto Aviation Services was damaged beyond repair in a crash landing near El Paso International Airport following an engine failure shortly after take-off. The aircraft was on a domestic non-scheduled passenger flight to Tucson International Airport in Arizona when the engine failed and the decision was made to return to El Paso. A single-engine go-around was attempted following an unsafe landing gear warning.[21]
  • On February 19, 1988, Don McCoy, a private pilot, the owner of El Paso Sand and Gravel, took off in a newly acquired Rockwell Aero Commander 680 in a snowstorm (an aircraft he was not properly rated to fly), and attempted to land again after encountering mechanical trouble in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The aircraft crashed, killing the owner and two acquaintances. Some later attempted to attribute the accident to US Senator Phil Gramm, as it was alleged that McCoy planned to testify against Senator Gramm's shakedown of campaign contributions made by the El Paso Small Business Administration office.[22][23]
  • On January 16, 2006, Continental Airlines Flight 1515, a Boeing 737-500 bound for Houston, was under going a pre-flight inspection when a mechanic was sucked into the right engine and killed. The aircraft sustained only minor damage.[24]
  • On April 11, 2015, a Southwest Airlines jet was directed by the tower at ELP to land on a closed runway under construction. The aircraft landed safely but missed construction equipment by "mere feet".[25]
  • On June 3, 2018, American Airlines Flight 1897, an Airbus A319 aircraft from San Antonio to Phoenix, was diverted to El Paso due to damage sustained by the aircraft after running into a hail storm in flight. The plane was able to land normally, and no injuries were reported.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b FAA Airport Form 5010 for ELP PDF
  2. ^ a b "El Paso International Airport Operating Statistics". El Paso International Airport. January 2019. Archived from the original on April 22, 2019. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  3. ^ a b "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields: Texas - El Paso area". airfields-freeman.com.
  4. ^ Koerner, Brendan I. (June 10, 2013). "The Father-Son Hijacker Team Who Were 'Just Fed Up' With Being Americans". Slate Magazine. Retrieved June 20, 2019.
  5. ^ McClintock, Wayne (April 2, 1971). "Airport Passenger Numbers 3 Times E.P. Population". El Paso Herald-Post. Retrieved June 8, 2012.
  6. ^ Diaz, Kandice N. (September 22, 2008). "Hilles and Garland: Modern Architecture for the Borderland". The UTEP Prospector. Archived from the original on February 5, 2013. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  7. ^ timetableimages.com
  8. ^ "EPISD Central Office Relocation to Downtown El Paso FAQ". El Paso Independent School District. Retrieved June 25, 2022.
  9. ^ Carreon, Cristina (January 28, 2021). "EPISD administration to move into new downtown headquarters in 2021". El Paso Times. Retrieved June 25, 2022.
  10. ^ "Flight Timetable". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  11. ^ "Allegiant Interactive Route Map". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Flight schedules and notifications". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  13. ^ "FLIGHT SCHEDULES". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  14. ^ "Frontier Airlines Begins 4 New, Nonstop Las Vegas Routes". Frontier Airlines Begins 4 New, Nonstop Las Vegas Routes.
  15. ^ "Frontier Airlines Announces 20 Nonstop Routes, Including 5 New Destinations".
  16. ^ "Frontier". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  17. ^ "Check Flight Schedules". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  18. ^ a b "Timetable". Retrieved September 29, 2018.
  19. ^ "El Paso, TX: El Paso International (ELP)". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  20. ^ Accident description for 52-1021 at the Aviation Safety Network
  21. ^ "N102BL Accident report". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
  22. ^ "Probable cause briefing, NTSB Identification: FTW88FA066". NTSB. January 24, 1990. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  23. ^ "Phil Gramm". Famoustexans.com. Retrieved May 21, 2012.
  24. ^ Ranter, Harro. "Accident Boeing 737-524 N32626, 16 Jan 2006". aviation-safety.net. Aviation Safety Network. Archived from the original on March 20, 2015. Retrieved June 27, 2021.
  25. ^ Genevieve Curtis (April 17, 2015). "Plane lands on runway closed for construction at El Paso International Airport". KFOX-TV.
  26. ^ María Cortés González (June 4, 2018). "American Airlines plane forced to make an emergency landing in El Paso because of hail damage". El Paso Times.

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website https://www.afhra.af.mil/.

External links[edit]