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United Plans $2.6 Billion Houston Terminal B Expansion

United and the Houston Airport System are planning a massive transformation of Terminal B that will increase capacity and replace aging facilities.

A rendering of United’s Terminal B Expansion project at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (Photo: United Airlines)

United Airlines and the Houston Airport System are planning a significant investment in the airline’s hub at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston. The $2.6 billion project will increase capacity at the airport’s Terminal B and replace aging parts of the facility. When completed, the expanded terminal will increase the number of travelers who can fly on peak travel dates by 40 percent.

Replacing Terminal B’s North Concourse

The north side of Terminal B currently consists of two circular 1969-era concourses. With limited space and dated design elements, the facility is very clearly showing its age.

One of the 1969-era piers at Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport’s Terminal B North Concourse (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Andrew Chen)

During the new infrastructure project, the Terminal B North Concourse will be replaced completely with a three-level structure spanning approximately 765,000 square feet. While the existing Terminal B North exclusively serves small regional United Express jets, the new facility will have 22 mainline narrowbody gates. The mezzanine level will also feature the largest lounge in the United Club network.

An aerial rendering of United and Houston Airport System’s Terminal B expansion project (Photo: United Airlines)

Transforming the Terminal B South Concourse

Currently, Terminal B’s South Concourse has 30 gates designed for 50-seat regional jets. There are no jet bridges and all flights are boarded using ground ramps. A bright and modern main hall features numerous dining and shopping options. Passengers get to their aircraft by going through one of three controlled entrances that lead to the facility’s three ground-level piers, which do not have any restrooms or concessions.

Ground boarding gates at George Bush Intercontinental Airport’s Terminal B South Concourse (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Andrew Chen)

The plan for the terminal’s South Concourse is to convert the existing gates to accommodate larger two-class regional jets. All gates will have jet bridges, therefore eliminating the need for the existing ground boarding ramps.

Improvements are also planned for the central portion of the terminal, which houses the departures and arrivals halls, and connects the North and South Concourses. The expansion involves increasing curbside, roadway, and departure hall capacity, as well as a ground-level check in area. There will be two major concessions hubs, with 115,000 square feet of space for dining and shopping. The project also includes a sensory room and comfort zones for passengers with disabilities and those who need to decompress between security screening and boarding.

A rendering of the departures hall of United’s expanded Terminal B at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston (Photo: United Airlines)

A Major Investment in Houston

United has been investing heavily in its Houston hub in recent years. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline has opened a new hangar to expand its maintenance capabilities and built a flight attendant training center at the airport.

At an event held at the airport on Thursday, United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby showcased the planned Terminal B expansion to members of Houston’s business community. “The $2.6 billion Terminal B expansion is going to let us grow in Houston by 40 percent,” he told the audience. United is slated to invest more than $1.9 billion in the Terminal B expansion, with the City of Houston expecting to fund $624 million in enabling projects.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby addresses members of the Houston business community at an event showcasing the Terminal B transformation project on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Andrew Chen)

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner was also at the event. “Houston is a premier, world-class destination deserving of a state-of-the-art facility to welcome individuals traveling to our city,” Turner said in a press release that accompanied the live function. “The expansion of Terminal B is physical proof of United’s ongoing commitment to the economic vitality of the City of Houston.”

As the largest airline serving the city, United has more than 14,000 employees and 400 daily departures from Houston. The expansion is expected to create an additional 4,000 construction-related jobs. Three of the five main firms involved in the design and construction of the Terminal B transformation project are based in Houston.

Renderings of United’s Houston Terminal B expansion at an event for the business community at the airport on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Andrew Chen)

“What is really impressive to me about the Terminal B expansion is that we’re doing the official groundbreaking today and it’s going to be ready by the summer by 2026,” Kirby said, highlighting the ambitious timeline surrounding the project, “I work with a lot of airports around the country and that’s unprecedented in ability and efficiency to get it done. And that’s what makes Houston special and unique for us at United.”

Andrew Chen

Author

  • Andrew Chen

    Andrew is a lifelong lover of aviation and travel. He has flown all over the world and is fascinated by the workings of the air travel industry. As a private pilot and glider pilot who has worked with airlines, airports and other industry stakeholders, he is always excited to share his passion for aviation with others. In addition to being a writer, he also hosts Flying Smarter, an educational travel podcast that explores the complex world of air travel to help listeners become better-informed and savvier travelers.

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