United showing off new terminal, Nancy Sarnoff, Prime Property a Chron.com blog
The $97 million south concourse will be open to limited flight operations over the next two weeks, with the first 15 gates planned to be fully operational by May 1, according to United Airlines, which will add 15 more gates by the end of the year.
“This modern and spacious new terminal is a significant investment in the future of George Bush Intercontinental as a major international hub,” Parker said in a statement.
The 225,000 square-foot facility — nearly four times the size as the previous south concourse — will be dedicated to United Express regional flights.
This is good news, and based on what the airline is saying this doesn't sound like a company that's "abandoning" IAH to me:
“Bush Intercontinental’s extensive connecting traffic makes it a premier international gateway and a key hub in United’s network,” Jim Compton, United’s vice chairman and chief revenue officer, said in a statement. “We’ve designed our newest terminal to offer travelers a more customer-friendly airport experience where they can relax in comfort or work with greater ease.”Any way you view it, this is good news for Terminal B. This was an area at IAH that was really starting to show it's age. Not only did it aesthetically resemble a scene from the 60's, but the food choices were sub-par and the gate areas cramped. I've got a few United Express flights on the docket this year, I'm hoping that at least one of them is routed out of the renovated terminal.
This is good news for IAH as well, given that there was some concern (among a few of us who travel out of the airport) over what impact the Parker administration's decision to alter a long-term agreement by shifting resources to Hobby would portend for the future. While it's true that United's justification for cuts on the heels of that decision was shaky at best (and dishonest at worst) many feel that there will be some capacity shifting from IAH going forward, with Denver being the odds-on favorite as the beneficiary. Given this it's refreshing to see United make statements regarding the strategic importance of IAH to it's plans going forward. One thing that was noticeable in the statement however, was IAH's repositioning as a "key" hub and not United's "largest" hub, a distinction it currently holds.
I'm expecting United to milk this piece of good publicity for everything it can, and then announce the formal cancellation of phase 2 (something they've strongly hinted at since the WN/HOU decision). This will mean that at least some capacity is going to be siphoned off to other hubs, and IAH will diminish slightly in importance but will still be a workable regional hub. Given how bad things could have been on the heels of Parker's short-sighted call, Houston travellers should be happy with that result.