Houston has officially been a United Airlines hub since the airline’s merger with Continental Airlines in 2010, and now, 13 years later, the carrier is bringing some major upgrades to the city’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).
United, along with Houston Airport System — the city department that manages the region’s airports — will invest $2 billion into the IAH airport over the coming years.
Headlining the passenger-facing upgrades is a completely transformed Terminal B, which will include 40 new gates.
Terminal B will be split into two concourses: North and South. The former will span approximately 765,000 square feet across three levels and will house 22 gates for narrow-body aircraft operating domestic and short-haul international flights.
Terminal B North will also house a brand-new United Club that’s set to become the largest one in the United system. This new lounge outpost will be on the mezzanine level of this concourse and will offer views of the airfield.
United didn’t share any other details about this new club, but just this year, the airline debuted its current largest club in Denver, which spans 35,000 square feet with seating for more than 600 flyers. Passengers passing through the Mile High City have been impressed with the new Denver club, which is likely a harbinger of good things to come for Houston.
That’s especially true because most of the airline’s five clubs in Houston are quite outdated. The current shining star is the renovated outpost near Gate C1, but this lounge (along with the other ones) consistently gets overcrowded during peak departure periods.
Adding more lounge capacity to Houston will be great news for flyers based in the city and those connecting through the hub. United offers over 400 daily flights from Houston to over 150 destinations, Cirium schedules show.
While the new United Club might be the highlight of Terminal B North, the carrier isn’t stopping there. The airline says that it’ll expand the pre-security ticketing and departures lobby, which will offer digital signage, and enlarge the curbside frontage for additional roadway capacity.
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Terminal B will also house a new security checkpoint on the third floor of the new facility.
Meanwhile, Terminal B South, which currently houses regional operations for most of the airline’s 50-seat jet operations, will get a big upgrade when 30 gates are converted to accommodate larger, two-cabin regional jets.
Once these upgrades are complete, all regional flights will be boarded via jet bridge, eliminating a big pain point for travelers under the current setup that relies on stairs and lots of walking.
Other terminalwide upgrades include a sensory room, a so-called multimedia park and special zones for passengers with disabilities who are looking for a comfortable space to decompress between security and boarding.
The new terminal will also house two concessions hubs spanning over 115,000 square feet with space for a plethora of yet-to-be-announced food and retail outposts.
Finally, the baggage claim and arrivals hall will be expanded, and a new baggage handling system, equipped with advanced baggage tracking technology, will support increased capacity.
“This investment further supports United’s position as Houston’s carrier of choice,” said Phil Griffith, United’s vice president of IAH, in a statement. “On behalf of our more than 14,000 employees who call Houston home, I can’t wait to continue to do all we can to serve our customers flying to, from and through our hub on more than 400 flights each day,” he added.
United plans to celebrate this announcement Nov. 30 with a special media event hosted by CEO Scott Kirby. The carrier will preview the Terminal B redevelopment project and will give a behind-the-scenes look at the upgraded baggage handling system.
The carrier is marketing these passenger-experience improvements as part of its broader United Next strategy that includes new and retrofitted planes, seatback screens for every passenger, bigger and better terminals, revamped lounges and much more.
The airline didn’t publish an estimated completion date for when these upgrades will be ready for the flying public. It also didn’t share what, if any, impacts the construction will have on the operation of the existing facility.