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Would Texas Benefit From Another International Airport?

May 4, 2012

HOUSTON - Does the nation's fifth-largest metropolitan area need a second international airport?

United Airlines says no. The company is fighting a proposal by Southwest Airlines to expand service at Houston's Hobby Airport. However, the city's leading business advocacy organization, the Greater Houston Partnership, this week endorsed the plan.

The Houston Airport System, which has been studying the potential impact of an international terminal at Hobby, lent its support last month, with aviation director Mario Diaz telling the City Council the airport would attract 1.5 million additional passengers annually.

"New international service at Hobby would create direct, indirect and induced jobs, and generate approximately $1.6 billion in annual economic impact for the Houston area."

United Airlines rebuts some of the Airport System findings, saying many of the estimated 10,000 new jobs would be offset by job losses at Bush Intercontinental Airport, which houses United's largest hub.

Supporters of expanding Hobby fear Southwest will take its international aspirations elsewhere if Houston rejects the proposal.

Community residents will get a chance to weigh in on the expansion plan this weekend. The Texas Organizing Project, which is hosting a town hall at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Harbach-Ripley Neighborhood Center, 6225 Northdale St., has not taken a position.

Durrel Douglas, the project's communications coordinator, says his concern is simply that area residents be included in the debate.

"Hobby Airport expansion shouldn't boil down to who has the best lobbying team. The community deserves to have a seat at the table because it's going to affect those people that live and work around Hobby Airport."

If Hobby is allowed to go international, Douglas wants city officials to ensure that local residents will reap some of the benefits.

"Where's that money going to go? Are they going to hire locally? Are they going to improve the infrastructure that's around the area if they're planning on expanding Hobby Airport? Who's looking out for the people that live and work around Hobby Airport?"
Southwest says it wants to introduce more competition into the market - meaning cheaper fares to Mexico and South America. If the City Council votes in favor of the plan later this month, it would still need federal approval. Southwest would then be responsible for construction of the international terminal and customs facilities at Hobby.

More information on the proposal is online at

Peter Malof, Public News Service - TX