Houston’s airports should have better road conditions, more gates as work continues

Houston Airport System leaders say the worst is behind them after a summer of nightmare vehicle traffic at Bush Intercontinental and discussed future plans for both of the city’s airports on Wednesday.

State of the airports luncheon
Shavonne Herndon / Houston Public Media
The State of the Airports Luncheon held Wednesday, October 5, 2022.

Hobby and Bush Intercontinental Airport are faring quite well these days, according to Houston Airports Director Mario Diaz, despite a 2022 filled with traffic nightmares for passengers at Bush Intercontinental.

"Hobby ranked third in the best airport in North America and fourth in the cleanest airports in North America category," Diaz said during a State of the Airports luncheon on Wednesday. "George Bush Airport ... received the number 36 ranking in the world’s top 100 airports and placed as the third-highest ranking among all airports in the US."

Diaz addressed the concerns of drivers fighting traffic during peak hours, due to construction at Bush Intercontinental. Diaz said a return to normal came sooner than anticipated and that road conditions have improved.

"We faced the challenges of major construction of building back better in a live operational environment replete with aged infrastructure," Diaz said. "We certainly miscalculated the timing."

Bob Harvey is the President and CEO of the Greater Houston partnership. Harvey said the trio of airports, Bush, Hobby and Ellington Airport, support approximately 1,900 jobs and contribute approximately $36.4 billion to the local economy.

"The role of the airport system plays in connecting Houston to the global market is equally important as we work to expand international trade and investment," Harvey said. "Working with companies from across the globe, considering where to locate their US headquarters, I can attest to the fact that our air connectivity is a great strength of our region."

Diaz discussed a vision for the future for area airports. Upcoming plans include replacing the skyway, subway and rebuilding the central utility plant, and adding more car charging stations.

Diaz also said plans include electric helicopters that will help with flying passengers to nearby spots around the airport to help with traffic.

“In the not too distant future, the skies above Houston will be crisscrossed with evolutions,” Diaz said. “Electric helicopters for short trips, powered by high energy density batteries,” Diaz said. “Advanced computer systems working together in a network to keep traffic organized and safe. We expect to see more electric vehicles that will need charging stations and electric airplanes.”

Diaz added that an additional gates will come to the airports.

"United itself will be creating significant volume of gates to provide the facilities to accommodate 270 aircraft that are ordered,” Diaz said. “Southwest Airlines is expanding the west pier at Hobby and expanding it by seven more gates, one of which will accommodate international arrivals.”

Houston is one of eight cities nationwide with two international airports, with more than 100 domestic destinations available nonstop. Passengers can choose from 63 international destinations.