The overhaul of Terminal B was supposed to get underway back in 2008. But United CEO Jeff Smisek says the project was put on hold when the economy tanked.
"We can finance it now. It was very difficult to finance back then, as you recollect, back in 2008 we were going into a recession. Little did we know how deep and long that recession would be and the capital markets were effectively closed to us. Here, not only can we finance it, but with the power of the synergies of the new United, it's easily financeable."
The billion dollar investment in Terminal B, which was built in 1969, will renovate and expand the concourse with a new gate layout and a larger passenger lounge.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker says the project secures Houston's spot as the largest hub of the world's largest airline.
"Making sure that we are at the competitive edge, always, internationally and domestically. If we can get people to Houston, we can do business with those people. And we believe we are the premiere international gateway to South and Central America and we want to remain so."
Airport system officials say the city will contribute about $350 million generated from airport facility fees to improve roads and drainage and other infrastructure improvements. United will finance the rest of the project. The first phase of the expansion should be complete in late 2013 with the entire project taking about ten years.