DALLAS – United Airlines (UA) has announced several major developments that are set to take place at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston, Texas. These plans include a $2.6 billion renovation and expansion of Terminal B at IAH, the launch of a new United ClubSM location, and the new Early Bag Storage Facility (EBS).
These investments are part of UA’s United Next growth plan. The plan includes the expansion of 40 gates at IAH to be able to accommodate larger aircraft. This will help UA handle larger volumes of passengers at IAH airport during peak travel times.
When the project is complete in 2026, UA anticipates being able to handle a 40% increase in passengers, compared to 2023 figures.
United’s Terminal B Transformation Program will enable UA to handle an estimated 54 million annual passengers projected to travel through its IAH hub.
The new facility is intended to improve the travel experience for UA’s customers, from arrival to departure. The project is, however, still pending final approval from Houston’s city council.
“United Next is about new investments that improve the customer experience and building careers for the next generation of aviation professionals—and all those things and more are coming to life here in Houston,” said United CEO Scott Kirby.
The new Terminal B facility will offer highlights, including:
- A three-level Terminal B North Concourse with 22 mainline gates for narrow-body aircraft
- The conversion of 30 existing small regional jet gates in Terminal B South Concourse to 18 gates, which will accommodate larger, two-class regional jets
- Jet bridge boarding facilities for all flights
- Two major hubs offering food and retail space
- A new, state-of-the-art baggage handling system equipped with advanced tracking technology
- The largest United Club in our system
- Expanded curbside and roadway capacity with a ground-level check-in area, including the addition of a traffic bypass between Terminals B and A to allow Terminal B customers to exit the airport without having to drive past Terminal A
- A new sensory room for passengers with disabilities
United Club, New Baggage Handling System
A new United Club is also planned for IAH’s Terminal B. This will be the largest in the UA’s system. The club will join eight new United Club locations that have opened in the last two years. This represents the largest-ever overhaul of the airline’s lounge spaces.
United’s new clubs generally offer 50% more seating space than the clubs they replace. UA’s Club guests will enjoy higher-quality food and beverage options coupled with local flair and refined designs.
United also previewed its new Early Bag Storage (EBS) facility, which is set to become fully operational in early 2024. With a capacity of more than 3,300 trays to store baggage for passengers arriving before departure, on long layovers, or during irregular operations when flights are delayed, the system will prioritize the release of baggage according to flight time, allowing for more efficient and reliable baggage delivery.
The new system has the remarkable ability to deliver 40 bags per minute throughput, enabling UA’s overall baggage system to handle up to 80,000 bags per day. United is the only U.S. airline with a dedicated EBS facility, making it the most advanced in North America.
Expansion Plans Drive Job Creation
United is the largest airline at IAH, with more than 14,000 employees and 400 daily scheduled flight departures. The airline is also a major employer, hiring more than 2,100 people locally in 2023.
Due to its new expansion plans, UA expects to add another 1,500 employees to this figure in 2024. Its expansion plans are expected to create an additional 4,000 construction jobs.
Furthermore, UA will launch new direct flights to Georgetown (GEO), Guyana. On April 1, UA will be the first airline to offer non-stop services between IAH and GEO.
UA will service the route four times weekly with a Boeing 737-8 aircraft. This route joins UA’s nonstop flights to more than 160 destinations out of IAH.
Featured image: United IAH Terminal B transformation. Image: United Airlines