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Southwest Airlines Reveals Plans for Houston Hobby Airport Expansion

Here are the latest updates on the $250 million expansion project

by Fergus Cole

March 31, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Houston Hobby Airport

An architectural firm has updated Southwest Airlines‘ design plans for the $250 million expansion project at Houston-William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).

Southwest Airlines was given the go-ahead to begin work on the airport’s expansion after the Houston City Council approved a memorandum of agreement in early March 2022.

The Houston City Council also provided $20 million of funding towards the expansion itself, and the project is expected to take at least five years to be completed.

The Dallas-based carrier is trying to boost its presence at Hobby Airport after resuming services at Houston’s other major airport—George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)—in 2021.

Photo: Houston Hobby. Courtesy of Stephen M. Keller, Southwest Airlines

According to statistics from the Bureau of Transportation, Southwest is already HOU’s dominant carrier, having transported over 93 percent of the airport’s passengers in 2022.

During an economic development committee meeting in Houston on Wednesday, March 29, Jonathan Massey provided updates on the airport expansion. Massey is the principal aviation sector leader at Corgan, an architectural and design firm based in Dallas that provides its services to Southwest for ongoing projects.

In his announcement, Massey confirmed the expansion would focus on three distinct areas of the airport—the west concourse, the baggage claim area, and the out-of-view baggage handling system area.

The west concourse was initially opened by Southwest back in 2015, and it currently holds five boarding gates that can be used for both domestic and international flights. However, seven more gates will be added to the concourse under the expansion plans, with two suitable for international flights.

According to Massey, the expanded area will have more room for extra amenities such as retail and dining spaces. At the same time, there is space to build two additional gates in the future should there be enough passenger demand.

The baggage claim area is also being expanded to accommodate the expected increase in passenger numbers due to the additional gates. The site is also being redesigned to improve passenger flow and reduce congestion, while lighting and finishes will be upgraded to make the area feel “big and generous.”

Like the west concourse, the expanded baggage claim area will also have room for extra amenities, while the restrooms will be completely refurbished.

Photo: Courtesy of Southwest Airlines

Changes are also being made to the behind-the-scenes baggage handling area, which Southwest hopes will allow baggage handlers to work more efficiently and get passengers’ bags into the baggage claim area in less time, thus cutting waiting times for passengers. In addition, a new two-story building will be constructed to house the expanded baggage handling system.

The project is expected to be reviewed by the Houston City Council in either May or June, with construction scheduled to commence early next year, with the entire project set for completion in 2026.

In other news, William P. Hobby Airport recently retained its status as the only five-star airport in North America and one of only 18 worldwide, from U.K.-based airline ratings company Skytrax.

“Hobby Airport continues to set the standard for a five-star airport in North America,” said Mario Diaz, director of aviation at Houston Airports. “These rankings reaffirm the global impact possible when guests are the star.”