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 death total in Harris County now stands at 221. With 11,770 cases confirmed in the county, the death rate stands at 1.9%. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 1 new death confirmed May 28, 8 deaths over past 7 days

By comparison, 23 deaths were confirmed between May 16-22, and 39 deaths were confirmed between May 9-15.

Lone Star College plans to partially open 26 buildings beginning June 1. (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Lone Star College System discusses reopening plan for June 1

Lone Star College plans to partially open 26 of its buildings June 1, prioritizing health science buildings.

Texas Supreme Court rejects push to expand voting by mail during coronavirus

However, Supreme Court justices also said voters can determine for themselves whether or not they are disabled, and local election officials are not obligated to verify those applicants' claims.

Outdoor venues in all Texas counties will be permitted to operate at up to 25% capacity starting May 31. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Spectators to be welcomed back to Texas outdoor sporting events May 31 at 25% of venue capacity

Venue owners must operate under guidelines that facilitate appropriate social distancing.

RC’s NYC Pizza & Pasta in New Caney permanently closed May 17. (Courtesy RC's NYC Pizza & Pasta)
RC's NYC Pizza & Pasta in New Caney permanently closes

RC’s NYC Pizza & Pasta, located at 21572 Market Place Drive, Ste. 100, New Caney, permanently closed May 17.

In terms of county health in 2020, Montgomery County ranked among the top 15 on length of life and quality of life.
Health Care Snapshot 2020: Montgomery County ranks in top 10 in Texas for health outcomes

In 2020 county health rankings, Montgomery County ranked among the top 15 counties in Texas in the length of life and quality of life categories.

Volunteers pack boxes of food at the Montgomery County Food Bank. (Courtesy Montgomery County Food Bank)
Montgomery County nonprofits receive $235,000 through Greater Houston COVID-19 Recovery Fund

The funding was part of an $8.2 million distribution to dozens of nonprofits in the region announced May 28.

Students enrolled in the University of Houston College of Nursing can take classes at the Sugar Land campus. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: UH College of Nursing dean reflects on how coronavirus has affected education, profession

Kathryn Tart, dean of the University of Houston’s College of Nursing, spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about how the novel coronavirus is changing the way the university is educating nursing students.

Houston Methodist researchers conducted a 25-patient trial in March and April to examine the safety of convalescent plasma transfusions as a possible treatment for COVID-19. (Courtesy Houston Methodist)
Greater Houston-area health systems examine plasma transfusion as possible COVID-19 treatment

The experimental therapy involves the transfer of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to those who are currently symptomatic.

Each eligible child will receive $285 in benefits. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Some Texas students eligible for one-time federal benefit to aid with food purchases

Texas received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide more than $1 billion in pandemic food benefits.

Montgomery County commissioners criticized the lawsuit between Conroe Mayor Toby Powell and two tax officials of the county. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Montgomery County commissioners criticize Conroe Mayor Powell's lawsuit against tax officials

Montgomery County Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Meador called the lawsuit a “political posturing move.”