The everyday passenger might not realize how many entities are involved in the daily operations of an airport and how many different organizations collaborate to help them get to their destination.
All hands were on deck during Hurricane Harvey and airport stakeholders including airlines, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), concessionaires and parking worked together to tackle impact of the nation's worst flooding event.
Highlighted below are snapshots of instances when airport community stakeholders went above and beyond:
Airlines + FAA + TSA
Due to the shutdown of flight operations during Hurricane Harvey, many passengers were stranded at the airports. Airlines, the FAA and the Airports worked together to get passengers to other cities where they could connect to their final destinations. The flights operated by Southwest Airlines at Hobby Airport and Spirit Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines at Bush Intercontinental Airport took place on Saturday, August 26 and Sunday, August 27 when the FAA had ceased all commercial flight operations. The FAA allowed these flights to operate as humanitarian flights.
TSA checkpoints were closed when flights ceased operation. However, when humanitarian flights began, TSA ramped up to ensure the sterile area of the airports were secure. "RideOut" teams made up of 125 members from various airports relieved local officers to support operations. In addition, K9 teams from Phoenix, Raleigh Durham and Los Angeles airports supported operations in Houston.
Houston Airports enjoys a strong partnership with the FAA and the TSA and is thankful for this special collaboration with airline partners.
Hurricane Harvey created significant challenges at the airports. Roads were flooded and employees and passengers were not able to leave the facilities. Most of the retail and food outlets at the airport closed operations due to flights being cancelled. With roads flooded, there was no way to access food or water located outside of the airport facilities. Special thanks to our concessions partners who went above and beyond to supply food and prepare meals for employees and passengers: 4 Families of Houston at Hobby Airport and HMS Host and SSP America at IAH.
Combined, Houston Airports provides over 30,000 parking spaces for the traveling public. With flights cancelled and roads flooded, many passengers’ trips were delayed, and they were not able to access their vehicles. Fortunately no vehicles were damaged due to the floods at either Bush Airport or Hobby Airport. In addition, the airports worked with New South Parking—the airports’ parking operator—to provide credits to customers who were not able to access their vehicles due to Hurricane Harvey.
One passenger noted, "I want to personally acknowledge the wonderful driver named Danny. He was so nice, friendly and helpful. When we were leaving the lot to the airport during the storm, he was telling us nice things like 'bring your faith and not fear with you'. He was so right. Luckily, he was the same driver who picked us up when we arrived. He told us that during Hurricane Harvey he and other ecopark staff were living in the parking lot to make sure that cars were safe not only from storm, but also from burglaries and thieves. Danny helped take our big luggage out of the bus and inside our car. I would recommend ecopark because of the positive attitude and wonderful customer service from their employees such as Danny."
Houston Police Department + Houston Fire Department
During the devastating floods from Hurricane Harvey, many Houston police officers stepped up going above and beyond their call of duty. Not because they had to, but because they felt compelled to help those in need regardless of the clear and present dangers. Area patrol officers had limited resources to aid in high water rescues and 911 operators were overwhelmed with citizens calling for aid. Officers with members of the IAH tactical team acquired two dump trucks from the Houston Airport System and navigated high flood waters to aid in the rescue of stranded citizens. The IAH impromptu rescue team conducted operations in the areas of Greenspoint, Airline/Goodson, Yale/Parker, and Kingwood. Due to the courageous efforts these officers, over 450 citizens were rescued.
The Houston Fire Deparment utlitized reserve airport rescue firefighting vehicles to perform high water rescues in the community.
On Friday, August 25, 2017, employees from CBP’s Houston Field Office, IAH, and the Houston Seaport rallied together to begin around the clock work at the Houston Incident Command (IC) Center.
“Hurricane Harvey is an event unlike any other,” said LFC Judson W. Murdock II. “CBP employees have jumped into the fray and have worked tirelessly to help their fellow brothers in blue and Houstonians in need. I am incredibly proud of the work they have and continue to perform throughout this crisis.”
Bush Airport served as home for the CBP IC Center and houses the Logistics and Planning sections, which maintain accountability of employees in the Houston area and receive calls from CBP employees and anyone else needing help. The calls are logged and quickly distributed to the Operations section, where Strike Teams are sent out to provide help – whether it's generators, rescue or provisions.
Please click on the link below to view footage of Air and Marine rescue operations: