George Bush Intercontinental Airport
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, or IAH, is the primary international airport serving the greater Houston metropolitan area. It is the second busiest airport in Texas overall and the busiest Texas airport for international passenger traffic and a number of international destinations. IAH is one of the largest passenger hubs for United airlines. It covers an area of 10,000 acres and has five runways.
The land that is now the IAH was purchased by a group of Texas businessmen in 1957, with the intention of holding it until the city of Houston was able to devise a plan to construct a new airport as a replacement for what is now known as the Willaim P. Hobby Airport. The land was annexed by the city in 1965. The airport opened in June 1969 under the name Houston Intercontinental Airport (from which the IATA derived the code IAH). All scheduled airline service from William P. Hobby Airport was moved to IAH, and Hobby returned to its original status as a general aviation airport (although Southwest did return there two years later, which prompted the resumption of scheduled airline service at Hobby). Originally IAH was scheduled to open in 1967. However, terminal design changes created delays and cost overruns. A tragic aviation accident in Ethiopia that had killed US Congressman Mickey Leland caused the Houston City Council to consider renaming the airport after him, but it was decided that they would rename what is now Mickey Leland Terminal D the Mickey Leland International Arrivals Building (this building opened in 1990). Terminals A and B are as they were when the airport opened, while Lewis W. Cutrer Terminal C opened in 1981. Finally, Terminal E partially opened on June 3rd, 2003, with the rest of it opening on January 7th, 2004. As for renaming the whole airport, the Houston City Council voted in April 1997 to rename it the George Bush Intercontinental Airport/Houston, after Houston resident George H.W. Bush, the 41st President of the United States. At the time of airport opening, domestic flights were conducted by Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, Braniff International Airways, Eastern Air Lines, National Airlines, and Texas International Airlines. Pan Am World Airways conducted international service with ten Boeing 707 weekly flights to Mexico City, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines with four weekly Douglas DC-8 flights a week to Amsterdam via a stop in Montreal, Braniff International Airways with several weekly flights to Panama City, and Aero Mexico, which was flying to numerous cities in Mexico several days a week. Additionally, Texas International had direct weekly flights to several cities in Mexico with Douglas DC-9 jets. In 1974, KLM began using Boeing 747s, and Air France soon followed suit with four nonstop weekly flights to Paris and Mexico City. By this point, Continental, Pan Am, and National were all operating Douglas DC-10 wide-body jets, while Delta was flying Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star wide-body jetliners. In the late 1970s, Cayman Airways began nonstop flights to IAH from Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean using BAC One-Eleven Jets. In 1977 British Caledonian began operating flights to London Gatwick Airport with Boeing 707's (and later with DC-10s and Boeing 747s). In 1987 British Airways took over British Caledonian, continued the route, and doubled its frequency. By 1983 the number of airlines operating to and from IAH greatly increased; domestically, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, TWA, Piedmont Airlines, USAir, and Western Airlines had all joined the airlines that had already been serving IAH. International service included all the airlines mentioned previously, including the recently added Air Canada, Continental Airlines, Eastern Airlines, South African Airways, TACA, TWA, Aviateca, and Viasa. Additionally, several regional and commuter airlines were also using the airport. They included Emerald Air (Pan Am Express), Metro Airlines, Royale Airlines, and Rio Airways. The Bermuda II Agreement meant that airlines could not fly directly from IAH to London Heathrow, so Continental Airlines and British Airways flew to London Gatwick. However, London Heathrow was the larger of the two airports, and it made more sense for the airlines to fly there, as it would allow their passengers to access a greater number of connections. The airlines began flying to Heathrow via a gateway-approved technical stop to satisfy the agreement. This arrangement concluded in March 2008 by replacing the Bermuda II Agreement with the EU-US Open Skies Agreement, allowing the airlines to fly to London Heathrow directly. Furthermore, the list of airlines that have served the IAH over the years includes (in alphabetical order) Aviasca, America West Airlines, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Canadian Airlines, China Airlines, Comair, Grand Airways, Gulf Air, Korean Air, Martinair, Northwest Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Privatair (operating for KLM), SAS, Royal Jordanian, SeaPort Airlines, South African Airways, UltrAir, and World Airways. In 1990 the City of Houston agreed to provide land near the airport to Continental Airlines, which prompted the airlines to build a maintenance center there. In December 2009, the Houston City Council agreed to have Midway co-develop 10 acres of airport land to build a travel center for the airport's car rental facility. In 2011, Continental Airlines began direct service to Lagos, Nigeria. This was the first nonstop flight from IAH to the African continent. These flights were canceled in 2016 by United Airlines (which had acquired and integrated Continental in 2012) because they could not repatriate revenue sold locally in Nigerian currency. United began using the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on flights from Houston to London and on the then-existing Houston Lagos route. Air New Zealand began flying from IAH to Auckland using a Boeing 777-200ER. In August 2012, Lufthansa began using the Airbus A380 on its IAH-Frankfurt route, making IAH the first airport in Texas to feature flights using the A380. In 2015, Taiwanese EVA Air began flying from IAH to Taipei using the Boeing 777-300ER. In 2017 IAH became the first airport in North America to feature direct flights to every continent. That same year, United began flying from IAH to Sydney via the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, the longest nonstop route featured by the airline. In 2019 Ethiopia Airlines began service from Houston to Addis Ababa.
The airport is located 23 miles north of downtown Houston, between Interstate 45 and Interstate 69/US Highway 59, with direct access to the Hardy Toll Road Expressway.
- The holding company for the original plot of land was called the Jet Era Ranch Corporation, but a typographical error changed "Jet Era" into Jetero, which led the site to be called the Jetero airport site. The eastern entrance was called Jetero Boulevard (which has, by and large, been renamed Will Clayton Parkway).
- In 2009, a Continental Airlines Boeing 737-800 flying from IAH became the first in the US to use a combination of jet fuel and biofuel.
- "Glass Wings," a multicolored glass sculpture suspended under a skylight by Ed Carpenter, is found in the Terminal A North Concourse.
- Other works of art in Terminal A are "Countee Music" by Terry Allen and "Passing Through" by Leamon Green.
- "Light Spikes," which was created for the 1990 G7 Summit by Jay Baker, is located outside the E Terminal. It features columns leaning at ten-degree angles towards a central point representing Houston. The distances between each respective spike and the central point are relative to the distance between Houston and the capitals of the country's flags represented by the spikes.
- "Houston Bayou," a Byzantine glass mosaic mural by DIxie Friend Gay, is located in the corridor leading to Terminal B.
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