More than 750 guests gathered at the Omni Houston Hotel to hear Houston Aviation Director Mario Diaz give his 2016 State of the Airports address on March 21. The record-setting audience included the Honorable Mayor Sylvester Turner, elected officials, community leaders and business executives.
During the event that was hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership, Diaz addressed plans to accommodate the steady growth experienced at Houston Airports.
Houstonians are now enjoying unprecedented levels of global connectivity through its airports. Houston is the only city in North America with nonstop service to all inhabitable continents.
With a record total of more than 55 million passengers served at the two commercial airports in 2015 — an increase of almost four percent over the 2014 record-setting mark — Diaz noted the role vital projects played in continuing to attract foreign flag carriers to Houston, and will play in the future as both airports look to grow beyond the record-setting 10.7 million international passengers served in 2015.
Bush Intercontinental welcomed nine new foreign flag carriers over the last two years. As the growth of international travel at Bush Intercontinental continues, Diaz noted that the addition of the $156 million concourse at Hobby Airport — and bringing international service to that facility for the first time in nearly 50 years — is “absolutely vital to the future success of Houston.”
Opened in October 2015, a partnership with Southwest Airlines produced a 280,000-square-foot complex that includes a five-gate concourse, an expansive ticketing area equipped with modern technology and a Federal Inspection Station facility with modern customs technology. Add in $100 million in enabling projects, including a new 3,000 space parking garage and roadway, and Diaz said the “new facility not only expands the capacity and the capabilities found at Hobby Airport, but it also dramatically improves the overall customer experience.”
The growth also continues at Ellington Airport which became the 10th licensed commercial spaceport in the nation last year.
“These types of projects improve the economic vitality of the entire region,” Diaz said.
While celebrating the recent growth, Diaz also noted the need to look to the future, citing plans to implement internal systems that track and monitor asset performance, develop passenger satisfaction tools, and continuing the airport system’s efforts to provide diversity in the work and opportunities it generates.
For 2016, Diaz said the airport system will “focus our efforts on rebuilding the terminal and roadway facilities at Intercontinental, while we shift gears at Ellington to accelerate the development of our spaceport.”
“We’ve enjoyed an incredible tailwind over the past six years and I believe we have taken advantage of every opportunity to position all three airports in the system to weather the economic clouds we have entered,” Diaz said. “We are committed to the mission to connect the people, businesses, cultures and economies of the world to Houston, and we will speed ahead to arrive at our vision to become a five-star global air service gateway where the magic of flight is celebrated.
To view the 2016 State of the Airports presentation, click here.