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International Passenger Numbers on a Record Pace at IAH
Oct. 3, 2014

Houston’s dynamic economy and diverse population base continue to attract new air service to George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), especially flights featuring service to international destinations.

As a result of this strong demand, international passenger totals at IAH are currently on pace to reach the 10 million mark by the end of 2014, a total that’s never been reached in the 45 year history of the facility.  

“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.

The previous record total for international travel at IAH was set just last year, when 8.9 million passengers boarded and deplaned international flights.  So far in 2014, international passenger numbers are up 10.6 percent above that record setting pace.

Already recognized as a leading international gateway, Bush Intercontinental has seen its total number of international travelers increase by approximately 60 percent over the last 10 years. The corresponding string of additions in international air service have dramatically increased Houston’s level of international connectivity, with new nonstop flights opening tourism and business markets to Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Within the past 18 months, IAH has seen the following activity:

  • Turkish Airlines arrival (April 2013)
  •  Air China arrival (July 2013)
  • Korean Air arrival (March 2014)
  • United Airlines begins second daily frequency to Tokyo, Japan (March 2014)
  • United Airlines launches nonstop service to Munich, Germany (April 2014)
  • Scandinavian Airlines arrival (May 2014)

International growth to come:

  • Interjet (scheduled arrival in Oct. 2014 with nonstop to Monterrey, Mexico)
  • Aeromexico to Monterrey, Mexico ( Nov. 3, 2014)
  • VivaAerobus to Guadalajara and Cancun, Mexico (November & December 2014)
  • United Airlines to Santiago, Chile and Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (December 2014)

“A lot of that is driven by the international business that’s going on in Houston,” said Molly Waits, HAS Director of Air Service Development. “The recovery of the Houston economy, Houston’s diversity, and just the overall strength of Houston builds demand for additional services.”

According to a report from the Greater Houston Partnership, through the first half 2014, more than $127.3 billion in foreign trade passed through the Houston-Galveston Customs District, up 4.7 percent from the $121.6 billion in trade handled in the first half of 2013. Exports totaled $65.8 billion, up 8.8 percent from the $60.5 billion handled during the same period in 2013.

The international passenger numbers figure to continue to rise — and not just at Bush Intercontinental. Work continues on a new international terminal at William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), scheduled to open in 2015. Through a partnership with Southwest Airlines, a new $156 million five-gate facility will accommodate regional international flights to various locations across Latin America.

“We don’t see the trend ending,” Waits said. “We anticipate more growth to Latin America in 2015, and there are longer term opportunities for additional services to Asia, Africa and Europe.”

Learn more about the international traveler growth at both airports online.