Houston Intercontinental Airport

By: Art Leatherwood

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: March 17, 2017

Houston Intercontinental Airport had its beginning in 1957 when the then Civil Aeronautics Administration recommended to the city of Houston that it begin looking for a new airport site to relieve the activity at Houston International, now William P. Hobby Airport. A group of Houston businessmen and civic leaders, under the name Jetero Ranch Company, quietly accumulated almost 3,000 acres of land sixteen miles north of downtown for $1.86 million, which represented the actual cost plus interest. In 1961 the land was purchased, and a consortium of Houston consulting firms began an airport master plan. By 1963 the planning for a 6,000-acre, $125 million airport was well under way. The anticipated opening date was 1966. Initially the new facility was called Jetero Intercontinental Airport. It was intended to give the city "the worldwide image it deserves." By June 1964 the first runway was finished. In June 1965 a $17.7 million contract for two terminals of an intended four train-connected terminals, was let. Finally, after eight projected opening dates, the new airport opened, on June 8, 1969. A week-long special showing preceded the opening. Some 80,000 visitors attended the opening ceremonies. At midnight on June 7 all commercial operations at Hobby Airport ceased, and one minute later activity began at Intercontinental. By 1972 it was apparent that Houston Intercontinental was not able to compete with Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The terminals were not adequate, the runways needed strengthening, the terminal train system had to be replaced, and parking was badly overcrowded. Early in the 1970s terminal C was completed and plans for terminal D were scrapped. Instead of terminal D, a new $95 million building was planned to serve exclusively as an international facility. It opened on May 15, 1990, and was named the Mickey Leland International Airlines Building, after the United States representative, Mickey Leland. In 1988, 15,109,521 passengers passed through Houston Intercontinental Airport and more than 44,000,000 tons of air cargo were shipped and received. In 1989 the airport was the nineteenth busiest airport in the United States and ranked eighth in the nation for international passengers. It was the nation's second largest airport in land size, behind Dallas-Fort Worth. The airport is being continuously upgraded to meet the needs of a growing city and state.

Austin American-Statesman, August 20, 1989. Houston Post, June 3, 1979, June 8, 1989.

Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Art Leatherwood, “Houston Intercontinental Airport,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/houston-intercontinental-airport.

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March 17, 2017

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Currently Exists
Place Type
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  • Has post office: No
  • Is Incorporated: No
Belongs to
  • Harris County