State Series: Texas

Lone Star One is the latest aircraft to feature the Southwest's Heart livery (Photo: Southwest)

Since the creation of the first airport in 1909 by Wilbur Wright, cities in the United States have come together to create one of the most expansive airport systems in the world. Over the next few months, our writers have taken an in-depth look to see what airports each state has to offer, what its history entails, and what changes we can expect in the future that will continue to shape the airline industry

As the second largest state in the United States, Texas proudly stands at 268,581 square miles of land. To put that into comparison, you can fit most parts of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and about half of California into the state. With that size, Texas does have a lot of airports, near 800 to be exact. While the vast majority of these airports are small general aviation airports and private strips, let’s take a look at some of the major and minor commercial airports in the Lone Star State.

MAJOR AIRPORTS

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport – Grapevine, TX

Dallas-Fort Worth, often referred to as DFW, is the largest airport in Texas, serving around 64 million passengers per year. This makes it the fourth busiest airport in the United States and the 10th busiest in the world. The airport is so big in terms of physical size that the airport is classified as a city with its own zip code. American Airlines is the largest carrier operating nearly 900 flights a day out of the airport. Other carriers who frequent the airport more than others include Spirit Airlines and UPS.

Dallas-Fort Worth International started off as Dallas/Fort Worth Regional Airport in 1940 when the Civil Aeronautics Administration funded a $1.9 million deal to build the airport. However, due to the Dallas and Fort Worth governments, the airport was abandoned in 1942. Over time, Dallas Love Field began to become too crowded, and after over twenty years of the FAA pushing the two cities for a new airport, it was finally agreed upon and the construction of the larger airport began in 1969.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport – Houston, TX

George Bush Airport (IAH) comes in second place for the list of largest Texas airports, serving around 43 million passengers per year. United Airlines is currently the largest carrier at IAH. Apart from United, Atlas Air uses Houston as a cargo hub. Other top carriers at IAH include Spirit and Frontier. In 1967, a group of businessmen based in Houston bought the area to save the land so that it could later be used by the City of Houston. The city wanted the land to build a bigger airport to replace what is now known as William P. Hobby Airport. The airport was opened under the name Houston Intercontinental Airport in June of 1969. By the end of the 1980s, the Houston City Council voted the name Terminal D after Mickey Leland, a U.S. Congressman who died in an aviation accident. By April of 1997, the entire airport was renamed to its current name of George Bush Intercontinental Airport after a unanimous vote by the city council to name it after the president.

Austin Bergstrom International Airport – Austin, Texas

Opened on May 23, 1999 to replace the old Robert Muller Municipal Airport, AUS has seen substantial growth over the past few years. The airport now sees over 150 daily departures to cities in the United States, Europe, Mexico, and Canada. Austin Bergstrom currently holds the title of the 34th busiest US airport,  seeing over 11 million passengers in 2015. Southwest sent over 4 million passengers to 31 different destinations out of Austin in 2015. Other notable carriers are United, American, and Delta. Austin Bergstrom sits on what use to be Bergstrom Air Force Base. In 1942, the city of Austin bought the land from the United States military. Del Valle Airfield was opened on September 19, 1942 with a name change to Bergstrom Army Airfield in March of 1943. After numerous complaints from the Robert Mueller Municipal Airport, which served as the commercial airport near downtown Austin, the decision to move the city’s new airport to Bergstrom Air Force Base was made. Austin Bergstrom International Airport was opened on May 23, 1999 and has seen continuous growth since.

MINOR AIRPORTS

Dallas Love Field – Dallas, Texas

Dallas Love Field started in 1917 as an Army training facility during World War I. Being the only commercial airport in Dallas in 1957, Love Field saw 164 weekly departures from Braniff Airways, American Airlines, Delta, Trans-Texas Airways, Central Airlines, and Continental Airlines. Southwest Airlines dipped their toe into Dallas Love in 1971 making the airport their headquarters. The airport was marked the eighth busiest airport in the United States in 1973. The airport saw a record breaking 6,668,398 passengers that year. Due to the opening of Dallas/Fort Worth International airport in January of 1974, the amount of service Dallas Love saw dropped drastically. To date, Dallas Love Field sees daily flights from Southwest Airlines, Delta, and Virgin America. In 2015 the airport saw 14,497,498 passengers, which allowed the airport to secure the 31st position for the busiest US airports.

William P. Hobby Airport – Houston, Texas

Houston Hobby Airport was opened in 1927 as a private field under the name of W.T. Carter Field. The field had service from Braniff International Airways and Eastern Airlines. The name was changed to Houston Municipal Airport when the field was purchased by the city of Houston. Houston Municipal housed the first of the Woman Airforce Service Pilots training courses in 1943 and saw Braniff International Airways’ first international service to South America. Just 11 years later, Houston Municipal was changed to Houston International Airport and saw 910,047 passengers. After seeing much improvement, the airport was renamed after former Texas governor, William P. Hobby. After the opening of Houston Intercontinental Airport in 1969, Hobby too saw a drop in passenger service. Houston’s Hobby is currently served by American Eagle, Delta, JetBlue Airways and finally Southwest Airlines, who uses the airport as a hub. Hobby has taken the 33rd spot for the busiest US airports and saw just over 12 million passengers in 2015.

San Antonio International Airport – San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio International was built in 1941 by the City of San Antonio for use by the United States Army. In July of 1942, training began on the grounds which was referred to as Alamo Field. After the war, the land was returned back to the city, and San Antonio International Airport began civilian operations. San Antonio International currently has service from Aeroméxico, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier, Interjet, Southwest, United Airlines, and Volaris. San Antonio International lands in the 45th position for the busiest airports in the US seeing a total of just over 4 million passengers in 2015.

Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport – Lubbock, Texas

Founded in 1929, Lubbock Municipal Airfield was opened by Clent Breedlove. In 1942, the US Government took over the field and titled it South Plains Airport which was to be used as another United States Army training ground. Commercial service began in Lubbock on July 1, 1945. Braniff Airways, Pioneer Airlines, Continental Airlines, and Trans-Texas Airlines were the initial airlines to operate at Lubbock International. The airport was renamed after Texas Governor Preston E. Smith in 2004. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Express currently serve Lubbock today. FedEx and UPS also use Lubbock as a hub for their feeder routes. The airport saw only 1,715,572 passengers in 2015.

Texas has many airports scattered thought the massive state. The ones listed above are just a mere fraction of the commercial airports in the Lone Star State. The state is filled with 27 other commercial airports and an incredible amount of general aviation airports. Everything, including aviation, is truly bigger in Texas.

Matthew Garcia

Matthew Garcia

Matthew Garcia became interested in aviation at the age of 12 when he installed Microsoft Flight Simulator X on his computer. He was instantly "bitten by the bug" and has been in love with aviation ever since. Matthew took his first introductory flight in 2013 and began normal flight training in February of 2015. Over the years, Matthew's love and knowledge for aviation has grown tremendously, mainly due to FSX. Garcia flies highly advanced aircraft in a professional manner on a highly complex virtual air traffic network simulating real world flying. In mid 2015, Matthew decided to pursue a career in the airline world. In the fall of 2016, He will attend university to study professional flight.
Matthew Garcia