KPRC 2 Investigates: Bush Airport construction traffic mess and 4 things airlines are doing to help

If you’ve traveled out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport recently or had to pick someone up, you know you’ll have to deal with major construction closures, both in and outside of the airport.

If you’ve traveled out of George Bush Intercontinental Airport recently or had to pick someone up, you know you’ll have to deal with major construction closures, both in and outside of the airport. Spring break was a busy time for Houston airports and summer travel is just around the corner. The ongoing construction at IAH means getting there two hours before your flight won’t cut it. Our KPRC 2 team is looking at what’s being done at the airport to help travelers get to where they are going on time.

Spring break trip ruined

From sea otters to stingrays, it was a spring break to remember for the Salcedo-Green Family. But this Houston staycation was not what they had planned.

Family vacation canceled after delays at IAH. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“Our flight was at six in the morning. So we got to the airport about four o’clock,” said Mary Salcedo-Green. “As soon as we got inside and took the elevator upstairs to the ticket counter, It was mayhem.”

After waiting three hours in line at IAH, the Salcedo-Green family missed their flights to North Carolina and rebooking with Delta didn’t look good.

“The agent told me it was going to be either Tuesday or Wednesday at the soonest. Nothing was guaranteed. She couldn’t guarantee us a seat on there,” said Salcedo-Green.

Long delays at IAH caused frustration during spring break 2022. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The trip was canceled and telling the kids was not easy.

“When I told them we had to cancel completely, it was really heartbreaking,” Salcedo-Green explains.

Delta did refund Salcedo-Green’s tickets, but her mom and dad are waiting for their refunds from a third-party booking website. Salcedo-Green said she’s not looking forward to the next time she needs to fly.

“I am going to be a nervous wreck every time. I schedule these because nothing has happened like this to us ever,” she said.


Construction at Bush Airport in Houston contributes to delays

Construction causing delays for people at IAH in Houston. Airlines adjusting the way they do things to help people get to where they are going faster. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Traveling from IAH isn’t easy these days with construction crews working on a project to build a new international terminal. The parking garages for terminals D and E are closed and there is no ticket counter for E terminals. All of this is causing confusion and massive delays.

“The construction here, in and around the airport, has been something we’ve had to deal with,” said Delilah Jones-Bardlette, Spokesperson for United Airlines.

United Airlines, along with several others, are making changes to help travelers get in and out faster.

1. Advances in handling required paperwork

United Airlines just launched a new way to manage all of your paperwork.

“Customers may need COVID documentation or immigration documentation. And all of that information can be uploaded before you ever present yourself at an airport, making your process inside the airport more seamless and uninterrupted,” said Jones-Bardlette.

Delta Airlines also has a new “fly ready” feature - where you can upload travel documents.

2. Pre-check baggage

You can also pre-check your baggage and drop it at the curb when you arrive at United’s bag drop shortcut.

Construction causing delays for people at IAH in Houston. Airlines adjusting the way they do things to help people get to where they are going faster. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Here’s how bag drop shortcut works:

  • Check-in on the United app and select the number of bags
  • Find the bag drop shortcut location at the airport with detailed instructions available right in the app
  • At the bag drop shortcut location, customers place their bag on the scale and scan their boarding pass at the kiosk
  • The United team will check the customer’s ID, apply the bag tag and they’re on their way!

This free service is available now at all of United’s U.S. hubs in Chicago, New York/Newark, Washington D.C., Houston, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco and the airline plans to expand bag drop shortcut to dozens more new airports this year.

Check here for other airlines that allow a similar bag drop service.

3. Use self-service options when you can

Most airlines have apps and use them to communicate with customers. This is often the fastest way to get help if you need it. At United, the new “agent of demand” service allows you to text or video chat with an agent instead of getting back in the ticketing line. All the services are free.

“No need to stop anywhere in the lobby, it really expedites the service from curbside to secure aside,” Jones-Bardlette explains.

Southwest and Frontier airlines are just two of many airlines with self-service kiosks. Pro tip: if your flight is delayed or canceled, using a self-service kiosk is the quickest way to re-book your flight.

4. Adding extra staff in key areas

American Airlines told us ticket counters are staffed with people before the first departure to keep things running quickly from the start of the day.

Other airlines have employees around the “self-service” areas to help customers move quickly through the programs and to answer any questions.

If you’re worried about getting stopped in security, there is a station at IAH where you can *mail* any items you think might hold you up.

How long is the construction going to last at Bush Airport?

Construction causing delays for people at IAH in Houston. Airlines adjusting the way they do things to help people get to where they are going faster. (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The airport construction is expected to last through 2024. Right now, airlines recommend you arrive three hours before all domestic flights and four hours before international flights.

Just for a refresher, you can check with the TSA before you pack to check what items are not allowed.

Book your flight with a credit card that offers traveler protection

When it comes to travel protection, there are several credit cards that come with insurance for delayed or canceled flights. Your credit card may have a built-in trip delay or trip-cancelation coverage. We looked into a few credit cards that offer built-in trip protection.

The Platinum Card from American Express - for covered reasons, the card covers claims up to 10,000 per trip and 20-thousand per eligible card/per year.

Bank of America Premium awards credit card - Provides up to $500 per ticket purchased for you and your eligible family members for reasonable expenses if a covered trip is delayed (due to a covered hazard) for more than 12 hours. Provides up to $2500 for non-refundable passenger fares if your trip is canceled or cut short by sickness or other covered situations. Lost luggage reimbursement.

Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card - This card’s trip cancellation insurance covers you and your immediate family members if expenses for part or all of the trip are put on the card. Similar to the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, covered losses may include an injury, sickness or quarantine that prevents you or your travel companion from traveling, severe weather, an organized strike, or an event that renders your home or hotel uninhabitable. Also includes delayed expenses like hotel rooms and meals.


About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.