The new International Arrivals
Building (IAB) at George Bush Intercontinental Airport opened this
morning, and Houston Mayor Bill White hailed the new facility for its
ability to streamline the customs, immigration and baggage process for
international visitors coming to Houston. The inaugural arrival today was Continental Airlines flight 94 from Rio de
Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil, arriving at 5:19 a.m. at Gate E4.
“More than 6 million international passengers went through Bush
Intercontinental in 2004, and that number is only going to grow,” White
said. “Now when those growing numbers of global travelers come in, we have
one of the world’s finest places to receive them. And it’s spacious enough
to accommodate Houston’s international visitors for years to come.”
“With this wonderful facility to welcome the world business traveler,
better and faster service is inevitable,” said Rick Vacar, director of the
Houston Airport System (HAS). “When visitors are expedited through Federal
Inspection Services (FIS), they will be more likely to want to come back
to Houston and do business, come back for fun and leisure, or all of the
“One of Continental’s main strengths is our international scope,” said
Larry Kellner, chairman and CEO of Continental Airlines, which has its
largest hub at IAH. “This new facility gives our customers a world-class
airport experience. The new International Arrivals Building is linked to
our new, adjacent Terminal E, and provides the finest amenities and quick
and efficient service to our passengers.”
Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is taking vital steps to accommodate
more visitors from around the world. The opening of the new IAB is the
biggest step, because the structure more than doubles IAH’s capacity to
welcome international visitors.
“We processed about 2,000 passengers an hour in the former FIS facility in
the Mickey Leland Building, or Terminal D. In this new facility we’ll be
able to do about 4,500 an hour and process 190 bags of luggage per
minute,” Vacar said. “The Customs & Border Protection (CBP) inspectors
will have 84 booths to use, instead of only 32 at the old Customs
“The completion of this new federal inspection facility will result in a
first-class welcome to Houston and the United States for international
travelers,” said Gerard J. “Jordy” Tollett, president and CEO of the
Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Combined with the recent
completion of our new METRO light rail, the completion of the Galleria
expansion, our time-honored cultural arts and the millions we’ve spent on
hotel, convention and entertainment facilities, Houston is set to
effectively compete for the international tourist with other major U.S.
“The new IAB means a more user-friendly travel experience,” said Jim C.
Kollaer, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership.
“International business travelers to Houston will find an expedited
customs and immigration process, which means they can get to their
destinations and business meetings faster. The new facility truly shows
Houston as an international city and reflects the region’s commitment to
global business and industry.”
Houston’s District B City Council representative Carol Mims Galloway and
U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee joined White and Vacar in cutting
the ribbon for the IAB, which will begin operating Jan. 25.
The IAB has 784,000 square feet of floor space over three levels. The
basement-level baggage-handling and baggage re-check tunnels; the first
level, which includes baggage claim and re-check and the meeter-greeter
lobby; and the second floor, which will house the CBP primary inspection
hall where arriving passengers are processed. Also located on the second
level are the in-transit lounge, a Continental Airlines ticket lobby, and
the secured bridge connections to Terminals D and E.
The four bridges are expertly configured for ease of use but also offer
airtight security, enabling passengers to walk to and from Terminals D and
E and to the federal inspection area.
To construct the IAB, HAS used 30,000 cubic yards of concrete, about 15
million lbs. of steel, more than 380,000 square feet of terrazzo flooring,
about 6.5 miles of terrazzo divider strips, 260 miles of electrical wire,
and 1 million linear feet of data cable.
The IAB project, which cost $440 million, and the entire International
Services Expansion Program (ISEP), which also included Terminal E, was
managed by Parsons Brinckerhoff - the PB Team, and PGAL provided the
“The PB Team design phase responsibilities encompassed all the
architectural and engineering design, estimating and scheduling,
constructability reviews and construction packaging,” said Vince Lepardo,
ISEP manager. “During construction, the PB Team was responsible for
construction management, contract administration, project controls,
construction inspection and surveying.”
Since opening in 1969, Bush Intercontinental has served an ever-increasing
amount of world travelers. In 1989—the last full year before the Leland
Building opened—Houston had 1.9 million international passengers. In
1990, with the Leland facility opening in May of that year, international
traffic for the year was just over 2 million.
The ever-rising tide of world travelers at Bush Intercontinental exceeded
6 million in 2004. IAH’s international passenger volume now exceeds the
numbers that came through before Sept. 11, 2001, and the IAB is large
enough to sustain continued growth in the coming years and decades.