George Bush Intercontinental Airport

"Intercontinental Airport" redirects here. For other such airports, see international airport.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
WMO: 72243
Airport type Public
Owner City of Houston
Operator Houston Airport System
Serves Greater Houston
Location Houston, Texas, United States
Hub for
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

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 (2015)
Passengers 43,023,224
Aircraft operations 502,844 (-1.2%)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport, (IATA: IAH, ICAO: KIAH, FAA LID: IAH)[4] is an international airport in Houston, Texas, United States, under class B airspace, 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,[4] between Interstate 45 and Interstate 69/U.S. Highway 59 with direct access to the Hardy Toll Road expressway, George Bush Intercontinental Airport has scheduled flights to a large number of domestic and international destinations. The airport is named after George H. W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States.[5]

George Bush Intercontinental Airport served 40,187,442 passengers[6] 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 into the United States by the United States Department of Transportation. Houston Bush Intercontinental is the largest passenger hub for United Airlines enplaning 16.6 million passengers annually with an average of 45,413 passengers daily.[7] The airport also serves as a focus city for Spirit Airlines. Under operations as United Express, Expressjet Airlines and Skywest Airlines operate hub operations from IAH. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Intercontinental served as focus city for several major airlines including the original Braniff International Airways, Delta, Eastern, National, and Pan Am. IAH was the premier domestic and international hub for Continental Airlines prior to its merger with United Airlines and also served as a hub for Houston-based Texas International Airlines and commuter air carrier Metro Airlines which was also based in the Houston area and started its first flights when Intercontinental opened in 1969.


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 new airport as a replacement for 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.

The City of Houston annexed the Intercontinental 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.[8]

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

Houston Intercontinental Airport, which was the original name for IAH, opened in June 1969.[5] All scheduled passenger airline service formerly operated from William P. Hobby Airport moved to Intercontinental upon the airport's completion. Hobby remained open as a general aviation airport and was once again used for scheduled passenger airline flights two years later when Southwest Airlines initiated intrastate jet service between Hobby and Dallas Love Field in 1971.[9]

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.[10]

In the late 1980s, Houston City Council considered a plan to rename the airport after Mickey Leland—an African-American U.S. 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.[5][11]

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.[12]

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 United flights, which use 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.[13]

Recent airline and airport developments: 2009 to the present day

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.[14][15]

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.[16]

In 2011 Continental Airlines began Boeing 777-200 service to Lagos, Nigeria; this was the airport's first nonstop flight to the African continent although South African Airways had operated nonstop Boeing 747SP service in 1983 between Houston and Amilcar Cabral International Airport in the Cape Verde islands off the coast of Africa as a refueling stop for its flights between Houston and Johannesburg, South Africa.[17][18] Continental successor United Airlines subsequently ceased nonstop service on the Houston-Lagos route. Continental was also planning to commence Boeing 787 service nonstop to Auckland but plans for the Auckland service were cancelled as a reaction to new international flights at Hobby Airport announced by Southwest Airlines.[19] 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 Dreamliner.[20] Its 787s were put to use on other international routes, however, including Houston-London and United's then new Houston-Lagos nonstop flights. The IAH-Auckland nonstop route was then begun by Air New Zealand using a Boeing 777-200ER.[21] 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 Boeing 747-400 to an A380 service on August 1, 2012.[22]

On July 11, 2013, Air China began nonstop flights from Houston to Beijing-Capital using a Boeing 777-300ER. This is the airport's first nonstop route to mainland China.[23]

Houston also gained nonstop flights to Turkey when Turkish Airlines launched nonstop service to Istanbul-Atatürk on April 1, 2013.[24]

Korean Air commenced nonstop flights from Seoul-Incheon to Houston on May 2, 2014.[25] Among other continental-Asia destinations, Singapore Airlines offers nonstop Boeing 777-300 service between Houston and Manchester, UK, with continuing, no change of plane service to its hub in Singapore; Qatar Airways flies a nonstop Houston-Doha route utilizing a Boeing 777-200; and Emirates flies nonstop from Houston to Dubai with the Airbus A380.

On March 31, 2014, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) announced that it would begin nonstop flights between Stavanger, Norway and Houston. This was the first time the airline had opened a route from one of its non-hub cities. The service was flown with a Boeing 737 BBJ operated by PrivatAir. The aircraft operated in SAS colors in a 44-seat all business class configuration. SAS subsequently ended this service on October 24, 2015.

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, Cancún, San José del Cabo and Toluca. Spirit Airlines with the addition of the above-mentioned routes has increased Houston Intercontinental Airport's placement from the ninth largest focus city to the fifth largest focus city based upon the number of flights flown per week.[26] Spirit Airlines experienced growth of 123% in weekly flight departures at Houston Intercontinental from August 2014 to August 2015.

In 2014, Taiwan-based carrier EVA Air announced that it will launch nonstop flights from Houston to Taipei on June 19, 2015. This began initially with three flights a week on the 777-300ER. The frequency was increased to four times a week starting July 1, 2015, and to six times a week starting March 28, 2016.[27] EVA Air plans to make these flights daily starting from the end of 2016. These flights leave Houston in the early morning about an hour past midnight. This marks the first time that actual nonstop flights are being operated between Taipei and any airport in Texas.

In addition, All Nippon Airways also announced new 2015 service in 2014 from Narita International Airport. Flights on the 777-300ER began on June 12, 2015, with ANA becoming the first Japanese-based carrier to operate passenger flights into IAH.

On June 19, 2014, Emirates announced that it would become the second operator of the Airbus A380 at Bush, upgrading its service from Dubai to Houston from a 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 Bush, for their new Phoenix–Sky Harbor and San Francisco services, with the possibility of more destinations from Houston to come in the future.

In January 2015, United Airlines expressed interest in opening direct flights between Houston, and Havana, Cuba, after President Barack Obama originally announced the change in U.S. policy on Cuba on Dec. 17, as part of a larger deal that secured the release of Alan Gross, an American government subcontractor who was imprisoned on the island for five years. The flights are currently pending approval from the Department of Transportation. On July 16, 2015, the new Eastern Air Lines (2015) announced that it would begin a weekly service to Havana from Houston, in cooperation with HavanaAir Charters utilizing Boeing 737-800 aircraft, beginning on August 12, 2015. The service was announced to have been delayed as of August 11, 2015, with no announcement of a new date.[28]

On April 15, 2015, Air New Zealand announced that they would begin nonstop flights from Auckland to Houston with Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. Service began on December 15, 2015.[29]


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[6] 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[4] 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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] As of 2007, with 31 destinations in Mexico, the airport offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other United States airport.[34]

The Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center, located on the airport grounds at 16600 JFK Boulevard,[35] serves as the region's ARTCC.[36][37] The HAS administrative offices are also on the airport property.[37][38]


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 west 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), with a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) distance from Terminal A to Terminal D.

Terminal A

Terminal A

Terminal A serves all non-United domestic and Canadian operations, in addition to some United Express domestic operations and international departures.

It was one of the original two terminals to open in 1969 and was designed by Goleman & Rolfe and George Pierce-Abel B. Pierce.[39] 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.[39] Terminal A has 20 gates, with 10 gates in the North Concourse[40] and 10 gates in the South Concourse.[41] Food and retail areas are located in the center of each concourse. A small United Club is found in the North concourse.

Terminal B

Terminal B

Terminal B serves most United Express domestic operations and international departures. United Express is the only tenant of Terminal B

It 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.[39] 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.[42]

The terminal underwent minor renovations from 1997 to 2001, designed by Gensler.[39] 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.[43] The first phase of the terminal's renovation broke ground on January 23, 2012.[44] 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.[45] 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

Terminal C (also known as Lewis W. Cutrer Terminal[46]) serves as United Airlines' main base of domestic operations, plus serves some United Express domestic operations and international departures.

It 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.[39] 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.[47] The terminal includes the airport's interfaith chapel.[48] The terminal underwent renovations from 2000 to 2005 and was designed by Gensler.[39] On May 11, 2015, the airport broke ground on the airport's new Terminal C north concourse, which is expected to be completed in early 2017.[49][50]

Terminal D

Corridor leading to Terminal E and Terminal D

Terminal D (also known as Mickey Leland Terminal) serves all non-United international operations, plus some United Express international arrivals.

Opened in 1990 as the International Arrivals Building (IAB) and later renamed the Mickey Leland International Arrivals Building, the US$95 million terminal was designed by Golemon and Rolfe Architects, Pierce Goodwin Alexander, James L. Marshall Associates, and Molina and Associates.[51] The IAB, equipped with a Federal Inspection Facility (FIS) and US Customs services, consolidated all international arrivals into one terminal (until Continental moved its international operations to Terminal E/FIS)

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.[52] 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.[53] Terminal D has 12 gates and several international lounges, including two separate British Airways Galleries Lounges (First and Club), a KLM Crown, an Air France, and an Executive Lounge for Singapore, Emirates, Qatar, and Lufthansa.[54]

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.[55] 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 C North Concourse Project is finished in 2017.

Terminal E

Terminal E

Terminal E serves as United Airlines' main base of international operations, in addition to some United Express international arrivals and some larger mainline domestic operations. (Currently, all United international mainline flights arrive at Terminal E while all United Express international flights arrive at Terminals D or E, then depart out of Terminal A, B or C.)

Terminal E is IAH's newest terminal. It was designed by Corgan Associates and Spencer Partnership Architects,[39] 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.[56] 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 it relocated international operation to the new terminal after the new Federal Inspection Service (FIS) building opened. The terminal was designed for maximum flexibility, with jetways designed to be able to handle any aircraft.

Passenger carriers and destinations


Aeroméxico Seasonal: Cancún, Mexico City D
Aeroméxico Connect Mexico City, Monterrey D
Air Canada Express Calgary, Montréal–Trudeau, Toronto–Pearson A
Air China Beijing–Capital D
Air France Paris–Charles de Gaulle D
Air New Zealand Auckland D
Alaska Airlines Seattle/Tacoma A
All Nippon Airways Tokyo–Narita D
American Airlines Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor A
American Eagle Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Philadelphia A
Avianca El Salvador San Salvador
Seasonal: Roatán
British Airways London–Heathrow D
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Salt Lake City
Seasonal: 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 D
Frontier Airlines Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando
Seasonal: Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Francisco
Great Lakes Jet Express and Branson Air Express
operated by Elite Airways
Seasonal: Branson A
Interjet Mexico City, Monterrey D
KLM Amsterdam D
Korean Air Seoul–Incheon D
Lufthansa Frankfurt D
Qatar Airways Doha D
Singapore Airlines Manchester (UK), Singapore D
operated by Atlas Air
Charter: Luanda D
Spirit Airlines Atlanta, Baltimore, Cancún, Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Oakland, Orlando, San Diego, San Pedro Sula, Tampa
Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul, San José del Cabo
A, D
Texas Sky Airlines
operated by CFM
Victoria (TX) A
Turkish Airlines Istanbul–Atatürk D
United Airlines Amsterdam, Aruba, Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Belize City, Bogotá, Bonaire, Boston, Buenos Aires–Ezeiza, Calgary, Cancún, Caracas, Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Cleveland, Cozumel, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Frankfurt, Grand Cayman, Guadalajara, Guatemala City, Hartford, Havana,[57] Honolulu, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Liberia (CR), Lima, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Managua, McAllen, Memphis, Mérida, Mexico City, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Montego Bay, Nashville, Nassau, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Oklahoma City, Orange County (CA), Orlando, Panama City, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Port of Spain, Portland (OR), Puerto Vallarta, Punta Cana, Quito, Rio de Janeiro–Galeão, Roatán, San José de Costa Rica, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), San José del Cabo, San Juan, San Pedro Sula, San Salvador, Santiago de Chile, São Paulo–Guarulhos, Seattle/Tacoma, Tampa, Tegucigalpa, Tokyo–Narita, Tulsa, Vancouver, Washington–Dulles, Washington–National
Seasonal: Albuquerque, Anchorage, Eagle/Vail, Gunnison/Crested Butte, Hayden/Steamboat Springs, Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, Jackson Hole, Minneapolis/St Paul, Montrose, Munich, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Providenciales, Raleigh/Durham, Reno/Tahoe, St. Thomas, West Palm Beach
C, E
United Express Acapulco, Aguascalientes, Albuquerque, Alexandria, Amarillo, Atlanta, Austin, 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, El Paso, Fayetteville/Bentonville, Fort Walton Beach, Grand Rapids, Greenville/Spartanburg, Guadalajara, Gulfport/Biloxi, Harlingen, Hartford, 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, Morelia, Nashville, New Orleans, New York–LaGuardia, Norfolk, Oaxaca, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Panama City (FL), Pensacola, 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, Tucson, Tulsa, Veracruz, Villahermosa, Washington–Dulles, Washington–National, West Palm Beach, Wichita
Seasonal: Aspen, Bozeman, Fort Myers, Gunnison/Crested Butte, Jackson Hole, Los Angeles, Miami, Montrose, Nassau, Orlando, Palm Springs, Philadelphia, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Rapid City, Reno/Tahoe
A, B, C, D, E
Vacation Express
operated by Sunwing Airlines
Seasonal: Freeport A, D
Vacation Express
operated by Swift Air
Seasonal: Punta Cana A, D
VivaAerobus Monterrey D
Volaris Guadalajara, Mexico City (begins March 1, 2017)[58] D
WestJet Calgary A

Prospective future airline service

Historical airline service: opening of Intercontinental in 1969 to the early 1980s

At the time of the opening of IAH in 1969, domestic scheduled passenger airline service was being operated by American Airlines, Braniff International Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Eastern Air Lines, National Airlines and Houston-based Texas International Airlines which had formerly operated as Trans-Texas Airways (TTa).[67] International service at this time was being flown by Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) with ten nonstop flights a week operated with Boeing 707 jetliners to Mexico City, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines operating Douglas DC-8 jets four days a week to Amsterdam via an intermediate stop in Montreal, Braniff International with Boeing 727 service several times a week to Panama City, Panama and Aeronaves de Mexico (now Aeroméxico) flying Douglas DC-9 jets to Monterrey, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Mexico City several days a week.[68][69][70][71] Texas International was also operating direct, no change of plane service to Mexico at this time with Douglas DC-9 jets to Monterrey and Convair 600 turboprop flights to Tampico and Veracruz.[72] KLM Royal Dutch introduced Boeing 747 service in 1971 and by 1974 Air France was operating four nonstop Boeing 747 flights a week to both Paris and Mexico City.[73][74] Also in 1974, Continental, Pan Am, and National were operating McDonnell Douglas DC-10 wide body jetliners into IAH while Delta was flying Lockheed L-1011 TriStar wide body jets with both types being operated on respective domestic routes from the airport by these airlines with National also operating Boeing 747 service to Houston at this time once a week on a Miami-Houston-Los Angeles routing.[75] By the late 1970s, Cayman Airways had begun nonstop service between Grand Cayman in the Caribbean and Intercontinental with stretched British Aircraft Corporation BAC One-Eleven series 500 twin jets.[76] Cayman Airways served the airport for many years, operating a variety of aircraft including Boeing 727-200, 737-200, 737-300, 737-400 and Douglas DC-8 jetliners into IAH in addition to the BAC One-Eleven.[77]

By July 1983, the number of domestic and international air carriers serving Intercontinental had grown substantially. American, Continental, Delta and Eastern had been joined by Piedmont Airlines, Southwest Airlines, TWA, United Airlines, USAir and Western Airlines.[78] Western was operating daily McDonnell Douglas DC-10 wide body jet service nonstop to Salt Lake City at this time with this flight also offering direct one stop service to Anchorage.[79] International service was being operated by Air Canada, Aviateca, British Caledonian Airways, Continental Airlines, Eastern Air Lines, SAHSA, South African Airways, TACA and VIASA in addition to Pan Am, KLM Royal Dutch, Air France, Aeroméxico and Cayman Airways.[80] Several commuter and regional airlines were also operating passenger service at this time from IAH including Emerald Air (operating as Pan Am Express), Metro Airlines, Rio Airways and Royale Airlines.[78] Metro Airlines was operating "cross-town" shuttle service with de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprops with up to seventeen round trip flights a day between IAH and the Clear Lake City STOLport located near the NASA Johnson Space Center and also up to nine round trip flights a day between the airport and Sugar Land Regional Airport as well as other flights to regional destinations in Texas and Louisiana.[78] In addition, at this same time the airport had scheduled helicopter airline service operated by Executive Helicopters with Bell 206L "Long Ranger" helicopters to four Houston-area heliports with up to 36 round trip flights a day.[78]

Other airlines that previously served Houston Intercontinental in the past were Aviacsa,[81] America West Airlines,[82] Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Canadian Airlines, China Airlines, Comair, Grand Airways, Gulf Air, Martinair, Northwest Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, PrivatAir operating on behalf of KLM[83] and later SAS, Royal Jordanian (then called ALIA), SeaPort Airlines,[84] South African Airways,[85] Southwest Airlines, UltrAir and World Airways.

Other current services

Atlas Air offers a thrice-weekly Boeing 747-400 scheduled charter service to Luanda, Angola in Africa on behalf of SonAir. Atlas Air replaced World Airways in June 2010 with World having previously operated McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft on the route.[86] 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).[87]

EVA Air offers luxury bus service from the Dallas-Fort Worth metro to feed its IAH-TPE route.[88]

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

Cargo carriers and destinations

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.[4]

In January 2003, the Houston Airport System decided to create a new 125 million dollar, 550,000 square feet (51,095 square meters), facility called the George Bush Intercontinental CargoCenter.[89]

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.[90]

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.[91] The center is recoginized as an official Certified Cargo Screening Facility (CCSF).[92]

As of June 2016, AirBridgeCargo Airlines, Cargolux, and Cathay Pacific Cargo serve IAH with late model Boeing 747-8F jumbo jet freighters.

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.[93]

Bush Intercontinental Airport is also frequently visited by Volga Dnepr and Antonov Airlines Antonov An-124 Ruslan aircraft which frequently come in to move heavy oil industry related equipment. Additionally, Volga Dnepr sends the Ilyushin IL-76 for smaller loads.

Trade data

  • Europe 44%
  • Asia 23%
  • Middle East 16%
  • Africa 8%
  • Latin America 7%
  • North America 1%[94]


AirBridgeCargo Airlines Anchorage, Amsterdam, Chicago–O'Hare, Los Angeles, Moscow–Sheremetyevo, Shanghai–Pudong
Air France Cargo Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Ameristar Air Cargo Laredo, Minneapolis/St.Paul
Baron Aviation Services College Station
Cargolux Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Guadalajara, Luxembourg, Mexico City, Miami, New York–JFK, Prestwick
Cathay Pacific Cargo Anchorage, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami
Centurion Air Cargo Amsterdam, Caracas, Miami
China Airlines Cargo Anchorage, Chicago–O'Hare, Miami
DHL Aviation
operated by ABX Air
Cincinnati, Miami
DHL Aviation
operated by Air Cargo Carriers
DHL Aviation
operated by Atlas Air
Cincinnati, Luanda, Luxembourg, Miami
DHL Aviation
operated by Polar Air Cargo
Los Angeles, Panama City
DHL Aviation
operated by Southern Air
DHL Express
operated by Ameriflight
New Orleans
Emirates SkyCargo Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dubai–Al Maktoum, Mexico City, Zaragoza
FedEx Express El Paso, Fort Worth/Alliance, Indianapolis, Memphis
Lufthansa Cargo Frankfurt, Stavanger
Martinaire Addison, San Antonio
Qatar Airways Cargo Doha, Liège, Luxembourg, Mexico City
Turkish Airlines Cargo Chicago–O'Hare, Istanbul–Atatürk, Maastricht, Shannon (Service Postponed)
UPS Airlines Chicago/Rockford, Louisville


Top destinations

Busiest domestic routes from IAH (Aug 2015 – Jul 2016)[95]
Rank City Passengers Top carriers
1 Los Angeles, California 821,000 American, Spirit, United
2 Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois 718,000 American, Spirit, United
3 Denver, Colorado 696,000 Frontier, Spirit, United
4 Atlanta, Georgia 569,000 Delta, Frontier, Spirit, United
5 San Francisco, California 558,000 Frontier, United
6 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 555,000 American, United
7 Newark, New Jersey 509,000 United
8 Las Vegas, Nevada 450,000 Frontier, Spirit, United
9 Orlando, Florida 436,000 Frontier, Spirit, United
10 Miami, Florida 388,000 American, United
A United Airlines Boeing 787-8 parked at a Terminal E gate
Busiest International Routes to and from IAH (2015)[96]
Rank City Passengers Annual Change Carriers
1 Mexico City, Mexico 717,944 Increase1.7% Aeroméxico, Interjet, United
2 Cancún, Mexico 691,267 Increase14.3% Aeroméxico, Spirit, United
3 London (Heathrow), United Kingdom 544,035 Decrease5.7% British Airways, United
4 Frankfurt, Germany 410,613 Steady0.0% Lufthansa, United
5 Calgary, Canada 408,866 Decrease0.4% Air Canada, United, WestJet
6 San Jose, Costa Rica 367,080 Increase24.0% Spirit, United
7 Monterrey, Mexico 343,888 Increase20.9% Aeroméxico, Interjet, United, VivaAerobus
8 San Salvador, El Salvador 305,533 Increase29.5% Avianca El Salvador, Spirit, United
9 Amsterdam, Netherlands 300,362 Decrease8.4% KLM, United
10 Toronto, Canada 274,411 Increase3.9% Air Canada, United
11 Guadalajara, Mexico 251,081 Increase17.7% United, Volaris
12 Guatemala City, Guatemala 243,882 Increase3.5% United
13 Dubai, United Arab Emirates 239,572 Increase21.8% Emirates
14 Tokyo (Narita), Japan 236,042 Decrease2.0% ANA, United
15 Managua, Nicaragua 217,875 Increase31.3% Spirit, United

Annual traffic

Annual passenger traffic (enplaned + deplaned) at IAH, 1987 through 2015[97]
Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers

Terminal transportation

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.[98]

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.[99]

In addition, United Airlines has started a VIP terminal transportation service for elite status customers, using Mercedes Benz vehicles.[100]


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.[101] The hotel is currently undergoing a total hotel renovation, set to be completed in December 2015. There will be a new lobby, restaurant and bar, and all new sleeping rooms.[102]

Ground transportation

The former main entrance to the airport. This has since been replaced with a new sign bearing the Houston Airport System Logo.


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.[52] 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).[103][104][105] 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.[106] 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.[107] 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.[108]

As of 2016 the Taiwanese airline EVA Air operates a shuttle bus service from Bush IAH to Richardson, Texas in the Dallas-Fort Worth area so Dallas-based customers may fly on its services to and from Houston.[109] Previously China Airlines, also a Taiwanese carrier, provided a shuttle bus service to Sugar Land and the Southwest Houston Chinatown.[110] It ended in 2008 when China Airlines ended its Houston passenger service.[111]

Courtesy vans

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.[103]

Shuttle service

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.[103]


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.[103] 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.[52]

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.[112]


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.[113] 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.[114]

The elevators in Terminal B are cased in stainless steel accordion shaped structures designed by Rachel Hecker.[115] 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.[116] The airport has a display of lighted modern sculptures between terminals C and D.[52]

Master plan

The city of Houston presented its master plan update for IAH in 2005.[117] 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.[118]

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.[119][120] 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.[121]

Accidents and incidents

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


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External links

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