HOUSTON, TX - The Houston Airport System again posted recording-setting passenger traffic numbers.
According to a 2014 year-end traffic report, HAS saw more than 53.1 million passengers in 2014 — a 4.5 percent increase that easily eclipsed the record 50.9 million passengers in 2013. More than 43.3 million domestic travelers passed through HAS airports, a 3.5 percent increase.
Overall passenger traffic at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) reached an all-time high for the fifth consecutive year and international traffic at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) continued to grow at a record pace, thanks in large part to continued expansion in the number of carriers launching new service and routes from Houston.
“This is an exciting time for the city and for the Houston Airport System,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “The development we see all around Houston is mirrored by the steady growth at our airports — the kind of numbers that befit the fastest-growing major city in the United States. We’ve been remarkably successful in attracting new international air service to Houston and are moving forward with investments and projects that will ensure that growth continues.”
Bush Intercontinental Airport saw record highs in both combined passenger totals — more than 41.2 million in both domestic and international passengers, a 3.6 percent increase — and in the number of international passengers — more than 9.8 million, a 9.2 percent increase from 2013’s 8.9 million. Bush Intercontinental also saw a 2 percent increase in domestic passengers, up to more than 31.4 million.
Those numbers are the highest in IAH’s 46-year history, and in rankings recently released by the FAA, the nearly 509,000 flight operations in 2014 make Bush Airport the eighth busiest airport in the United States. In determining the total number of flight operations, the FAA counts commercial airline flights, general aviation flights, military flights and air taxi operations.
“Houston’s vibrant and diverse economy is presenting some extraordinary business opportunities for international air carriers based in markets around the world,” Houston Aviation Director Mario C. Diaz said. “George Bush Intercontinental Airport plays a key role in making sure that Houston is connected on a global scale, and that level of connectivity is important to our city, both from an economic standpoint as well as culturally. The record-setting passenger totals tell us that we’re doing a good job in making sure that connection is as strong as possible.”
Hobby Airport saw more than 11.9 million passengers, a 7.5 percent increase over the previous-record 11.1 million of 2013. The growing numbers are nothing new: Demand for travel from Hobby Airport has increased steadily over the past decade, growing by more than 34 percent over the past 10 years.
The growth in international passenger numbers goes hand-in-hand with the steady growth in foreign flag carriers coming to Bush Airport. Six new international carriers either launched or announced Houston service at IAH between January 2014 and January 2015. Bush Airport serves as a global gateway to more than 70 international destinations and offers service to more Mexican destinations than any other U.S. airport.
In addition to the arrival of new carriers, Houston also enjoyed significant expansion in air service availability from existing airlines, especially from Southwest Airlines at Hobby Airport and from United Airlines at Bush Airport. Southwest Airlines will operate its first international flight at Hobby Airport in March when it flies to Aruba. Later in the year, Southwest plans to fly to six international destinations, including Cancun, Puerta Vallarta, Los Cabos and Mexico City in Mexico, as well as Belize City, Belize and San Jose, Costa Rica.
In preparation for these new flights, work continues on a new international terminal at Hobby Airport, scheduled to open later this year. Through a partnership with Southwest Airlines, a new $156 million five-gate facility will accommodate regional international flights to various locations across Latin America.
United Airlines was also incredibly busy expanding its Houston international route map in 2014, launching new service to Munich, Germany; Santiago, Chile and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.