TSA limits checkpoints at George Bush Intercontinental Airport; Houston Airport System expects significant decline in March passengers

Houston Airport System officials expect March passenger data to be significantly lower than in other months. Foot traffic at IAH was light March 24. (Emily Heineman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston Airport System officials expect March passenger data to be significantly lower than in other months. Foot traffic at IAH was light March 24. (Emily Heineman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Houston Airport System officials expect March passenger data to be significantly lower than in other months. Foot traffic at IAH was light March 24. (Emily Heineman/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
Houston Airport System officials expect March passenger data to be significantly lower than in other months. Foot traffic at IAH was light March 24. (Emily Heineman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
Houston Airport System officials expect March passenger data to be significantly lower than in other months. Foot traffic at IAH was light March 24. (Emily Heineman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
Houston Airport System officials have closed down all but three TSA checkpoints at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. (Emily Heineman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
Houston Airport System officials have closed down all but three TSA checkpoints at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. (Emily Heineman/Community Impact Newspaper)
With low passenger travel during the coronavirus pandemic, Houston Airport System officials are anticipating a decline in passenger numbers at George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport for the month of March.

Augusto Bernal, public information officer for the Houston Airport System, said the virus's exact effect on passenger travel will not be known until mid- or late-April when airlines submit passenger data for the month of March to the airport system, but officials are anticipating a large hit.

Although March data is not yet available, January and February data sets show that usually, millions of passengers travel through the two Houston airports every month. IAH saw 3.66 million and 3.37 million domestic and international travelers in January and February, respectively, while HOU saw 1.09 million and 1.03 million travelers in the same months, according to Houston Airport System data.

Additionally, flight information on fly2houston.com, a website operated by the airport system, for IAH shows that at least 83 of 197 departure flights for March 3 were cancelled. At HOU, at least 43 of 99 departure flights were cancelled March 3, per fly2houston.com.

"We expect the numbers to be significantly down just because of the cancellation and reductions that are ongoing, but we really don't have an idea how empty these flights are or how they're operating," Bernal said.

TSA checkpoints close at IAH


Due to low passenger travel, Transportation Security Administration checkpoints at IAH have been consolidated to make better use of resources and personnel, Bernal said. TSA checkpoints at HOU have not been closed.


In numerous announcements between March 19-24, the airport system stated that TSA was closing down checkpoints at IAH's Terminal A North, Terminal B, Terminal C South and Terminal D. Only three TSA checkpoints in IAH's five terminals are operational, meaning passengers cannot access the terminals through the closed checkpoints.

The checkpoints that are open are operating on limited hours as of April 2, according to an April 1 news release from the airport system. Terminal A South will be open 3:45 a.m.-10 p.m.; Terminal C North will be open 4 a.m.-9 p.m.; and Terminal E will be open 4 a.m.-10 p.m., per the release. Exit lanes in the terminals will remain staffed 24 hours a day.

Gov. Greg Abbott also extended his executive order March 30 to add more places to a growing list of cities and states from which inbound flyers must self-quarantine. People flying to Texas from the states of California, Louisiana, Washington as well as from the cities of Atlanta, Ga., Chicago, Ill., Detroit, Mich., and Miami, Fla. must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

Virus impacts airport economy


Low passenger travel volume due to the coronavirus has the ability to hit all aspects of the airport's economy, Bernal said.

"Low passenger traffic affects the airlines, car rental companies, concessionaires and, consequently, the airport," he said. "[Houston] City Hall is working on negotiating the deferral of payments to try and alleviate the situation. We are waiting on a resolution."

Houston City Council approved a measure March 25 allowing negotiations to begin on a proposal to defer $180 million in payments to the Houston Airport Fund from April through the end of November, Community Impact Newspaper reported. At the end of that period, regular payments would resume, and deferred payments would begin getting paid back by January 2021, the proposal stated.

Mayor Pro Tem Dave Martin said he had reservations about allowing the airlines and airport businesses to defer payments, but he said he approved of allowing the city to enter negotiations.


“I think we’re going to see a great deal of consolidation and bankruptcy,” Martin said of the airline industry. “But giving us the opportunity to sit down and talk with them ... will make sure we’ll be paid back in the next couple of months.”

Visit https://fly2houston.com/covid-19 for more information on how the coronavirus is impacting IAH.

Emma Whalen contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to cite that the departure flight information was gathered from fly2houston.com.
By Kelly Schafler

Editor, Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood

Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.



MOST RECENT

The “Click It or Ticket” enforcement period across Texas roads will start on May 24. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
TxDOT will launch annual ‘Click It or Ticket’ campaign Monday, May 24

The campaign comes after a 2020 that saw a 16% increase in deaths of unbuckled motorists.

The Sgt. Luther James Dorsey Memorial Bridge was dedicated in November. The upcoming Memorial Day event includes the dedication of several more structures. (Courtesy Taylorized PR)
Montgomery County Veterans Memorial Park Commission hosts Memorial Day events May 30, 31

The Memorial Day event includes the dedication of an interactive acoustical monument honoring the Women Air Force Service Pilots.

Public schools cannot require students, teachers, parents and other staff members or visitors to wear masks after June 4, Gov. Greg Abbott declared in an executive order issued May 18. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Public schools can't require students, staff to wear masks after June 4, Gov. Abbott says

"Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices, which is why masks will not be mandated by public school districts or government entities," Gov. Greg Abbott said.

George Strait will perform at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's 90th anniversary celebration next year. (Courtesy Pexels)
George Strait to close 2022 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo with concert March 20

Tickets for George Strait's rodeo performance will go on sale June 24.

Comprehensive High School No. 3's will be named West Fork High School.  (Renderings courtesy New Caney ISD)
New Caney ISD trustees approve name for comprehensive High School No. 3

Trustees also approved a 2021-22 compensation plan and officials discussed mask policies for the summer.

Effective June 26, unemployed Texans will no longer be eligible to receive the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Gov. Greg Abbott announces end-date for Texans to receive federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits

Effective June 26, unemployed Texans will no longer be eligible to receive the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.

Photo of an H-E-B store
H-E-B makes curbside services free

Previously, curbside shoppers were charged a $4.95 fee on all orders, but moving forward that fee will be waived on purchases of $35 or more. Orders worth less than $35 will have a $2.95 "small basket surcharge" attached.

Each of the new locations will be available to the public to distribute and receive voter registration forms and applications to vote my mail as well as assisting with other election-related services. (Courtesy Unsplash)
Harris County elections administrator announces 8 new branch office locations

Registering to vote will soon be more convenient for Harris County residents with the opening of eight new branch office locations announced by the Harris County Elections Administrator's Office in a news release May 17.

Imperio Wine & Spirits sells a variety of liquor, beer, wine and spirits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Imperio Wine & Spirits opens in Katy; Montgomery Chick-fil-A to open dining room and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Greater Houston area.