Houston Airport Guide
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Your Complete Guide to Houston Airport

George Bush Intercontinental is the largest airport in Texas, in the United States of America, and is known by its IATA code of IAH and its ICAO code of KIAH. The airport is located approximately 23 miles, or 37km north of downtown Houston, and can therefore also be referred to as the Houston Intercontinental Airport. It is handling just over forty million passengers per annum, the majority of its passengers boarding domestic flights, and is a major hub for the airline company of United Airlines. Houston Airport has a wide range of passenger facilities available, and is served by buses and taxis for ground transport options.

Houston Airport is named after George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States of America, and dates back to the 1950’s, when the site was purchased by a group of Houston businessmen. Although the site was purchased in 1957, the actual airport, only opened in June of 1969. IAH was the second airport for the city of Houston, as it already had the William P. Hobby Airport. Much of its traffic moved to the Houston Intercontinental when it opened, but the Hobby Airport is still operational today as a general aviation facility. A number of domestic services are available to Hobby by Southwest Airlines. Houston Intercontinental was later officially named as the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, although it was almost named after Mickey Leland, an African-American congressman who died in an plane accident in Ethiopia. It was rather decided to name one of the terminal buildings after Mickey Leland, and the International Arrivals Building, now Terminal D, was named the Mickey Leland IAB (International Arrivals Building).

Continental Airport, now known as United Airlines, decided to build its maintenance centre at the Houston Airport in 1990, and has since viewed the location as a very important part of their operations. Currently, United Airlines has an average of 700 daily departures from the airport, and offers domestic and international flights to a wide variety of destinations. Houston is rated as the 10th busiest airport in North America for passenger traffic, as the sixth busiest in the world for aircraft movements and as third in the U.S. for non-stop domestic and international services with 182 destinations. It is also known as the top U.S. airport for ‘highest on-time performance’, and Houston has been voted as having America’s best airports by Travel + Leisure in 2010. The airport is served by seventeen airline companies, and handled approximately 40,4 million passengers in 2010 and 40.1 million passengers in 2011. It has five terminal buildings, referred to as Terminals A, B, C, D and E, of which A and B are considered as the original terminals of the airport, 24,500 parking spaces for private vehicles, a Marriott Hotel and more than 880,000 square feet of cargo space capable of handling up to 454,000 tons.

Houston Airport serves the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown Metropolitan area. This metropolitan is the fifth largest in the United States, and Houston is the forth largest city in the country. In general, Houston lies in the south-eastern corner of Texas, to the south of Dallas and Fort Worth, to the east of Austin and San Antonio and to the west of Beaumont and the state of Louisiana. South of Houston is Galveston and the Gulf of Mexico. The airport of George Bush is to the north of the city, and particularly nearby the areas of Kingwood, Atascocita and Spring. It also lies between the Interstate-45 and the US Highway 59, which are two of the main roads for airport access from downtown Houston and from the north. The two roads leading to the terminals are John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Will Clayton Parkway, which becomes Jetero Boulevard as it nears the airport complex. Departing passengers can travel to the airport in their own vehicles, and use the terminal parking areas or ecopark, or they can travel by public bus, shuttle buses or taxis. The METRO bus 102 Bush IAH Express serves the airport, and many routes are available from SuperShuttle. A taxi will cost about $50.00 from downtown Houston.

The airport’s five terminals are large, and spaced at a fair distance apart from one another. They have been expanded and renovated over the years, and some are again scheduled for further improvements. For inter-terminal transport, passengers have access to two airport trains. The above-ground TerminaLink train serves passengers on the secure side of the airport, while the underground inter-terminal trains provide transport for passengers/visitors on the non-secure side of the terminal buildings. The people mover trains of George Bush Airport are free of charge, and available at frequent intervals. The TerminaLink train also connects passengers with the International Arrivals Building and the inter-terminal train has a stop at the airport’s Marriott Hotel, found between Terminals B and C. The hotel has 566 rooms, two restaurants, a cocktail lounge, a coffee shop and a conference centre.

Terminal A of George Bush Intercontinental Airport is the only terminal that is not used by United Airlines, and is used for domestic services and Canada operations. It has North and South Concourses, and a total of twenty gates (ten in each concourse). Airline companies present at this terminal include Air Canada with flights to Calgary, Montreal and Toronto, Alaska Airlines with flights to Seattle/Tacoma, American Airlines with flights to Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami and Delta Air Lines, with flights to Atlanta. Delta Connection operated by various companies also offers a number of flights to other cities in the United States. Terminal B, also opened in 1969, has 37 gates, and is mostly similar to how it was originally constructed. However, it is shortly to be largely renovated and expanded. Its first phase of development will include a Terminal B south concourse, which should be completed in 2013. The new concourse will be accessed by a 95 foot-wide bridge. Future plans for Terminal B also include the redevelopment of the central terminal lobby and the baggage claim areas. A new north concourse and Federal Inspection Services facility will be built as well. United Express is one of the main airline companies at Terminal B, with flights to Detroit, New Orleans, Chicago, Phoenix, Charlotte, Dallas, Washington, Denver and many other locations.

Terminal C, also known as the Lewis W. Cutrer Terminal, is the main base for the domestic services offered by United Airlines. There are two United Clubs in the terminal, and it has 31 departure gates. It is also where the airport’s interfaith chapel can be found. This terminal opened in 1981. Terminal D, or the Mickey Leland Terminal, is the international terminal of George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and handles international flights by all airline companies other than United Airlines. The terminal was recently renovated, and therefore has new retail shops and restaurants and twenty additional common-use ticket counters. It also has a number of international lounges, including a Lufthansa Senator Lounge, a British Airways FIRST and Executive Lounge, a KLM Crown Lounge, an Air France Lounge and an Executive Lounge for Singapore Airlines and Emirates. The main airline companies present at Terminal D include AeroMexico, Air France, British Airways, Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, TACA and VivaAerobus. The most popular international destinations offered from the Houston Airport are Mexico City and Cancun in Mexico, London in the United Kingdom, San Jose in Costa Rica, Calgary in Canada, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Guatemala City in Guatemala, Panama City in Panama and Frankfurt in Germany.

Terminal E is the newest terminal building of the Houston airport, and is the international terminal for United Airlines. The first phase of the terminal opened in 2002, with 14 gates, and the second phase opened in 2003, with 16 gates. United Airlines flies to the international destinations of Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Panama City, Liberia, London, Caracas, Acapulco, Aruba, Amsterdam, San Salvador, Puerto Vallarta and many others. All terminal buildings are accessible to disabled passengers, and have a variety of concessionaires, including banking services, shops, restaurants and restrooms.

The airport has five runways, all of which are over 9,000 feet in length, and it will soon also become one of the U.S. airports to offer A380 aircraft services. Lufthansa will begin an A380 flight to Frankfurt from Houston in August 2012. Additional facilities include a consolidated rental car facility found just east of John F. Kennedy Boulevard. It houses all the car hire companies, and has a 30,000 square foot bus maintenance facility. The Rental Car Centre can be reached by the common bus system that is shared by the car rental companies, from any of the terminals.

Further Houston Airport information is available from the information booths within the terminals, from the volunteers, or the airport can be contacted at 281-230-3100. A fax number is 281-230-3108.