By John Egan
For convention-goers and other business travelers, Houston's two major airports keep flying to new heights, further enhancing the city's status as a national and international gateway.
Expansions are on tap at both George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport. At IAH, city officials have given the green light to a project to replace Terminal D, which serves an increasing number of international passengers. The City Council announced plans to invest up to $1.5 billion for the expansion. Meanwhile, a $156 million project is underway to build a five-gate international terminal at Hobby.
"Houston's dynamic economy and diverse population are combining to create some amazing opportunities for the Houston Airport System," Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz said.
The expansions at IAH and Hobby come amid beefed-up international service at both airports. Here are a few examples:
● Japan-based All Nippon Airways (ANA) is rolling out nonstop service between IAH and Tokyo's Narita International Airport in the spring of 2015.
● In May 2014, Korean Air began offering daily nonstop service between IAH and Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea.
● EVA Air is initiating nonstop service between IAH and Taipei, Taiwan, in June 2015.
● Southwest Airlines is adding nonstop service from Hobby to four destinations in Mexico, along with San Jose, Costa Rica, and Belize City, Belize. Southwest is the largest carrier at Hobby.
● In May 2015, Spirit Airlines is introducing 10 more nonstop destinations at IAH, including seven cities in Latin America.
● Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) launched nonstop service between IAH and Stavanger, Norway, in August 2014.
"Houston's dynamic economy and diverse population continue to strengthen its position on the world stage," Houston Mayor Annise Parker said.
International service isn't the only area getting attention at Houston's airports.
For instance, free Wi-Fi service was added in 2014 at IAH and Hobby. "This new system improves speed and reliability," Diaz said, "and it also introduces our customers to one of the most robust Wi-Fi networks found in any U.S. airport."
Another example: United Airlines established daily nonstop service from IAH to Boise, Idaho, and Williston, North Dakota, in August 2014. IAH is a United Airlines hub.
IAH serves more than 170 nonstop destinations, while Hobby serves about 40. No matter where they're coming from or going to, travelers at IAH and Hobby enjoy what the Greater Houston Partnership calls "one of the busiest yet least congested airport systems in the U.S."
In fact, the Houston Airport System's performance continues to improve. In June 2014, the system wrapped up implementation of its NextGen project, which promises to deliver more on-time flights thanks to a switch from a radar-based air traffic control setup to a satellite-based setup.
"Houston is proud to once again stand at the forefront of the aviation industry," Parker said when completion of the NextGen upgrade was announced, "because we recognize the importance of efficient global connectivity."
Learn more about the evolving Houston Convention District at visithouston.com/meetings/.