Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport, which opened in June 1969, is one of the busiest airports in the United States, with flights to around 200 destinations. A hub for United Airlines, it operates five runways and has the capacity to serve over 40 million passengers a year and operate more than 650 daily departures.
Airport Code, Location, and Contact Information
The George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is located about 22 miles north of downtown Houston.
Know Before You Go
The airport offers passengers service on 25 airlines, an on-site Marriott hotel, nearly 25,000 parking spaces, and an underground inter-terminal passenger train to all terminals and the airport hotel. Intercontinental sits on 11,000 acres of land, five terminals, and an on-site hotel.
The airport's Master Plan 2035 is aimed at helping the facility handle growth and offer travelers an improved passenger experience. Projects underway include: adding the new Terminal B North Pier in between the existing Terminal B North gates and the existing Terminal C North Pier; the new Mickey Leland International Terminal, which will create a four-level single consolidated terminal building; and adding 2,200 new parking spaces.
Airport parking prices can be found on the airport website. The airport has a guide that reports how full lots and garages are and offers guaranteed parking under the SurePark program. The Corporate Park program allows companies to get parking discounts in all lots. For airport pick-ups, IAH offers two cell phone lots where drivers can wait for their arriving passengers.
From downtown Houston, take I-45 North for a few miles until you can take Exit 51 and merge onto I-610 East. Drive for one mile and then take Exit 19B and stay on Hardy Toll Road for 10 miles until you see the exit for Central Green Boulevard. Take the exit and follow signs for George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Public Transportation and Taxis
To get to Houston from the airport via public transportation, you can take the 102 bus line which picks up passengers in Terminal C near the baggage claim. If you are connecting to Amtrak, you can take this line to the Milam and Preston Street stop and walk ten minutes to the station.
Taxis are available outside of every terminal and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are also available throughout the Houston metro area. When taking a cab, senior citizens should inquire about a 10 percent discount on their fare.
Many hotels offer complimentary shuttles, but you can also buy a ticket on the SuperShuttle, which is faster than public transportation and cheaper than a cab. Tickets can be purchased online or at the SuperShuttle desk near the baggage claim.
Where to Eat and Drink
Houston Airport offers over a hundred restaurants, bars, cafes, and snack stands where you can get a bite to eat. With such a large array of offerings, you can count on finding your favorite fast food stops, but you should also consider taking some time to dine in at one of the airport's sit-down restaurants. Here are some of the most popular by terminal:
- The Breakfast Club and Liquid Provisions in Terminal A
- El Real and Bullritos in Terminal B
- Pala, Ember, or Olio in Terminal C
- Hugo's Cocina and Tony's Wine Cellar & Bistro in Terminal D
- Cat Cora's Kitchen or Q in Terminal E.
Where to Shop
This airport is full of shopping opportunities from the automated electronic and cosmetic kiosks to the Duty-Free stores available in all terminals. At George Bush Intercontinental, you can shop luxury brands like Swarvoski and Chanel, buy some sweets at Dylan's Candy Bar or Natalie's Candy Jar, or even pick up a puzzle game at Mindworks. Texas-inspired souvenirs can be found at Made: Texas or Pinto Ranch.
How to Spend Your Layover
To best enjoy Houston during a long layover, you should have at least six hours to work with. Taxis are the quickest way to get to the city, but you can also take the bus. You should have just enough time to take a stroll through downtown or maybe check out a museum like the Houston Museum of Natural Science or the non-denominational Rothko Chapel. If you have a lot of time and give yourself the whole day, you could also pay a visit to the Houston Space Center. It's not very close to the airport, but a chance to see real space shuttles and astronaut suits makes for a unique experience that can only be had in Houston.
If you have an overnight layover, consider staying at the Houston Airport Marriott, which is located at the airport or in one of the nearby budget hotels like Spring Hill Suites, Red Roof Inn, or the DoubleTree. If you're looking to kill time in the airport outside of shopping and eating, you can also visit the Xpress Spa for a treatment or hunt for one of the massage chairs which can be found in all terminals.
There are over 10 airport lounges at this large airport, most of which are only accessible through a premium ticket or airline loyalty programs. However, there are a few where it's possible to purchase day passes, such as the Air France Lounge (Terminal D), KLM Crown Lounge (Terminal D), United Club (Terminals A, B, C, and E), and the Centurion Lounge, which features shower facilities (Terminal D).
The Houston Airport is also home to a USO Lounge, which is free to use for active and retired members of the U.S. military and their traveling companions.
Wi-Fi and Charging Stations
Wi-Fi is complimentary and widely available. Charging stations can be found in all terminals, but Rapid Charger Machines are also an option. For a fee, these machines can charge your phone in half the time. These only work if your device supports quick-charging; many older devices do not.
Airport Tips and Tidbits
- Amenity-wise, the airport offers pet relief areas, smoking areas, two chapels, multi-lingual special service representatives, visitor information centers, and a currency exchange booth.
- You can use the free Skyway train to travel in between terminals.
- The Houston Airport has one of the largest collections of public art in Texas. The city of Houston’s Civic Art Program partnered with the airport to collect commissioned and donated works of art. This art has been installed in the airport's five terminals as a way to provide aesthetic and cultural value to the identity of the city. Pieces include everything from sculptures to photographs, placed inside and outside of the airport.
- Intercontinental's Harmony in the Air program provides a stage for local jazz musicians four times a week in Terminals A and D. If you're curious, it's possible to check the schedule of performances before your visit.