Houston City Council approves plan for new international terminal at Bush IAH

By Nakia Cooper - Senior Web Editor

HOUSTON - Houston City Council members unanimously approved a funding and phasing plan for a new international terminal building at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The new facility would replace the existing Mickey Leland International Terminal Building, Terminal D, and would be constructed in the same location as the existing structure.

"Houston is firmly established as a key player on the global market stage, and we need an international terminal building that adequately reflects that standing," said Houston Mayor Annise Parker. "International travel is vital to both our economic health and our quality of life.  We've been remarkably successful in attracting new international air service to Houston, and now it's time to address the infrastructure needs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport."

The memorandum of agreement passed by Houston City Council members on June 18 accomplishes two key goals in the drive to move forward with a new Terminal D.  The MOA secures support from United Airlines in working through the logistical phasing issues inherent with a project of this scope and size, and it also enhances an existing funding mechanism used by the Houston Airport System in securing the necessary dollars for infrastructure improvement projects.

"The unanimous vote on the part of our City Council speaks volumes as to the importance of this project and the amount of public support that lies behind it," said Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz. "The city of Houston is currently enjoying a remarkable amount of economic success and our elected leaders have a terrific understanding of our airport's vital role in maintaining and building on that positive momentum."

Support for the project took a major step forward on April 24, when early plans and the first renderings were taken to City Hall and unveiled for council members.  Conceptual drawings provided a glimpse into a new terminal building that dramatically increases both the size of the facility as well as its operational capabilities.

The aesthetics of the building will be improved through a more open and modern design that relies heavily on natural light and offers passengers an intuitive flow through the entire travel process.  The building and its amenities will also help to create a "sense of place" for guests, clearly conveying a Texas feel and "Houston Friendly" ambiance.

Operational capabilities would also be dramatically improved with construction of a new terminal, as the new building would feature a total of 15 gates, each of them capable of accommodating wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A380.

"Wide body aircraft are becoming more and more prevalent in the aviation industry, especially in regards to international air travel," said Carl Newman, general manager of George Bush Intercontinental Airport. "It's imperative that IAH stands ready to accommodate these aircraft in the future, and this terminal project helps us meet that crucial goal."

The issue of expanded capabilities becomes even more critical when viewed through the lens of recent increases in international passenger totals and airline options.  George Bush Intercontinental Airport has registered a record number of international passengers in each of the last four years, hitting the most current high mark in 2013 with a total of 8.9 million international passengers.

During that same period of time, IAH has also celebrated the arrival of three new foreign flag carriers -- Turkish Airlines, Air China and Korean Air -- and launched the start of 2014 with an announcement from Scandinavian Airlines that it too would be entering the Houston market.  SAS will begin operations on Aug. 20, 2014, with a nonstop flight to Stavanger, Norway.

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