A Guide to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Houston carries lots of superlatives: hottest, biggest, and most out of this world (thanks to the NASA Space Center). “The space city” is the fourth largest city in the U.S. and combines southern charm with world-class culture. And of course, a city with growing businesses, space exploration centers, and incredible museums should have an award-winning airport.

Houston skyline. Image credit: Adrian N/Unsplash

George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston (IAH) ranks as the Best U.S. Airport and second-best in North America at World Airport Awards. It is the busiest airport in Texas for international passenger traffic and the number of international destinations, as well as the 12th busiest in the United States for total passenger traffic. 

There are a number of transportation options to get to and from Houston Airport, but the most convenient and reliable by far is to book a Blacklane airport transfer service in Houston to anywhere you would like to go. This airport guide along with an airport map, will help you find your way around this international airport.

Airlines at George Bush Intercontinental Airport

There are 5 terminals at IAH (A, B, C, D, and E) that are all connected by Skyway and subway trains. Except for Terminal A, all the other terminals are connected via walkways inside the secure area. Domestic flights are operated from Terminals A, B, and C (Spirit Airlines also has international departures from Terminal A), while international flights are operated from Terminals D and E. All terminals except D have arrivals on level 1 and departures on level 2. Arrival halls at Terminals D and E are shared.

Terminal A

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta
  • Frontier
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest
  • Spirit (Domestic)
  • Spirit (International)
  • WestJet

Terminal B

  • United (Domestic)

Terminal C

  • United (Domestic)

Terminal D

  • Aeromexico
  • Air China
  • Air France
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Avianca
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • Interjet
  • KLM
  • Lufthansa
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Viva Aerobus
  • Volaris

Terminal E

  • United (Domestic)
  • United (International)

George Bush Intercontinental Airport Lounges

Airport lounges can make all the difference, even making you forget you’re in an airport! Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, the IAH lounges offer a peaceful haven and VIP treatment. 

Terminal A Lounges

  • United Club

With locations in Terminals A, B, C, and E, United Club lounges offer comfortable seating options, convenient workspaces, fast Wi-Fi, and plenty of power outlets. The lounges are designed in a sophisticated way with mood lighting, and a great deal of attention to detail. Even the restroom mirrors are designed as airplane windows!

The lounges are equipped with fully staffed bars, offering complimentary wines, beers, and spirits, as well as top-shelf items at a cost. The lounge also provides Illy coffee and espresso machines. The self-service buffet has a large selection of light snacks.

Use your United Club membership or eligible elite status to gain access to the lounges. United passengers can pay at the door if space is available.

  • American Airlines Admirals Club

American Airlines Admirals Club’s friendly Texan vibe makes it a comfortable place to relax, charge devices, dine, shower, and more. A small bar area and decent seating options with plenty of workspace and power outlets are available for business and leisure travelers. Cold and warm snacks are available in a domestic U.S. catering style.

AA Admirals Club membership is easy. It can be acquired for free through travel credit cards or can be purchased for cash or miles with a business or first-class ticket.

Terminal D Lounges

  • Air France Lounge

Air France has lounges all over the world, with the highest number of locations at their Charles de Gaulle Paris hub. Air France’s lounge in Houston has an open seating layout with a variety of recliners, chairs, and couches. There is a pleasant vibe in this Priority Pass lounge. Large windows provide a lot of natural light into the lounge, making it quite airy and bright.

The food options are limited to cheese, hummus, assorted wraps, and cookies, but enough to hold guests over. There is a self-serve bar with wine and spirits plus a refrigerator with water, beer, and soft drinks. Additionally, there is a coffee machine to help you beat jet lag. The big miss of the lounge is the lack of bathroom which makes guests find their way to other lounges.

It’s important to keep in mind that having a membership doesn’t guarantee admission. You may be turned away if the lounge is too crowded.

  • KLM Crown Lounge

Steps away from the Air France lounge is the KLM Crown Lounge. Besides serving KLM and SkyTeam customers, the Crown Lounge is also a pay-in lounge for other passengers regardless of airline or flying class. 

Designed after KLM lounges in Amsterdam, the modern interior features hardwood floors, and warm tones, with a neutral color palette. A decent selection of finger foods is available in the lounge, including cheese, sandwiches, soup, chips, fresh vegetables, and cookies. You’ll find a Starbucks latte machine, a self-serve alcohol bar, and mini fridges with soda, water, and juice. Work can be done in modern workspaces, which come with complimentary Wi-Fi.

  • The Centurion Lounge

Centurion Lounges by American Express are some of the most luxurious and well-equipped lounges in the U.S. The moment you walk into the IAH Centurion Lounge, you’ll notice that things are different. The lounge has a stylish, sleek, professional, and modern design. There are a variety of seating options. If you need to work during your layover, the available partitions and seating zones help you focus. Typical of The Centurion Lounge, the shower and bathrooms offer L’Occitane toiletries.

Dining options are the highlight of this lounge. You will be treated to a locally-inspired but globally-influenced, seasonal, and artistic menu designed by Justin Yu, chef and restaurant owner at Theodore Rex. The menu is completed by Houston-inspired cocktails crafted by famed mixologist Jim Meehan and a wine list curated by wine director Anthony Giglio.

  • USO Lounge

The IAH USO offers a welcoming, homey environment for active and retired military and their families. The lounge is equipped with comfy chairs and couches, computers and printers, and Wi-Fi. Various meals and snacks are available in the lounge’s kitchen, as well as a variety of drinks. All of these are further completed by a set of homemade blankets made by a retirement home. Built with families in mind, travelers with kids need not worry about keeping them entertained, as there is a dedicated play area for the little ones along with a video gaming room. 

Terminal E Lounges

  • United Polaris lounge

In America there are United Polaris Lounges, and then everything else. United Polaris lounges are United’s premium lounges designed to complement the Polaris inflight experience. The IAH’s lounge entrance is located near gate E12, on the concourse level. You will be greeted at the elevator and directed to the lounge on the fourth floor.

Once you exit the elevator, you are immediately in the center of a spacious and very exclusive lounge. Bright and airy, the lounge offers plenty of places to relax and unwind before your flight. There are a variety of seating options, including some very stylish individual booth seats, which are great for business since they are semi-private and have plenty of computer plugs.

The dining options are what make the Polaris lounges stand out from the competitors. The Polaris lounge at IAH is characterized by à la carte dining. No matter your vibe of choice, you’ll find something to suit your mood at the huge bar stretching in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows. There are many complimentary amenities offered in the lounge, including personal daybeds, kids’ room, shower suites, personal valet services, and Wi-Fi. The lounge is only accessible to United Polaris business class passengers flying long-haul international flights and some Star Alliance business and first-class passengers.

Hotels near Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Houston Airport Marriott

The Houston Airport Marriott is the only hotel on the airport property. It is located between Terminals B and C. There is a complimentary underground train line that connects the hotel to all airline gates in a matter of minutes. Aviation geeks can’t ask for more! 

Featuring modern and chic amenities, the Houston Airport Marriott caters to business travelers and vacationers alike. The spacious guest rooms feature Marriott standard beds, a big desk, Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs. 

The hotel has a full-service restaurant serving local, artisanal, and homemade dishes, a snack bar and a lounge ideal for evening dose of relaxation. You will be surprised to find such a large fitness center at the hotel with all the modern equipment. The hotel also offers a free shuttle service and on-site parking to make your trip easier.

Sheraton North Houston at George Bush Intercontinental

Comfort and convenience are the hallmarks of the Sheraton North Houston at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. Thanks to the hotel’s location and complimentary shuttle service traveling to and from the Houston Airport is easy. The hotel offers free parking for those traveling by car.

Foodies can enjoy American cuisine at Drifters Bistro, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The hotel also offers an outdoor pool and a fitness center, as well as a bar and a terrace. Rainfall showerheads and pillowtop beds with Egyptian cotton sheets are among the exclusive touches in the guest rooms.

Holiday Inn Houston-Intercontinental Airport

The Holiday Inn Houston-Intercontinental Airport is less than 10 minutes drive from IAH, making it the ideal stay for business travelers, tourists, and those who are passing through Houston.

Relax in the comfortable and spacious rooms and suites featuring coffee makers, free Wi-Fi, TVs, and mini-fridges, and then start your morning with delicious dishes from Blue Dixie Kitchen. This on-site restaurant also offers locally inspired lunch and dinner menus paired with evening drinks. 

Fitness fanatics can hardly resist the refreshing swimming pool and the well-equipped fitness center. When it’s time to leave, you can simply take the free shuttle back to the airport.

Shopping at George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Whether you’re killing time during a layover, looking to upgrade your wardrobe with a tax-free purchase, or simply searching for the perfect souvenir to bring home, IAH has something for you. The airport is home to countless convenience shops, duty-free stores, last-minute electronics, and travel options. 

The airport’s duty-free stores have a large variety of products. It’s not just cigarettes and liters of alcohol but rather they have a good selection of cosmetics, perfumes, accessories, and food options. 

Currently, ATU, which is one of the largest chain duty free stores in the U.S., has its flagship store at the airport’s Terminal D. They have a variety of high-end brands including Burberry, Chanel, Furla, Dior, Givenchy, and more. 

Editor’s suggestion: Make sure to visit Made: Texas, they have an incredible collection of gifts and souvenirs that covers everyone on your list, whatever the occasion.

Dining at George Bush Intercontinental Airport

A decent airport restaurant is like a port in a storm. If you have time to kill, IAH is the one last chance to experience the culinary culture of Texas. It offers passengers everything, from top restaurants to snack shops to popular chains. If you have the time (and budget!), try Ember, Olio, or Le Grand Comptoir. However, our top suggestion is to try local favorites, such as Bam Bam, Blaze Pizza, Pappasito’s, Whataburger, and Ray’s BBQ Shack. Enjoy craft brews and spirits at American Craft Tavern, Black Hat Whiskey Room, Brewster Beer Garden, and Tony’s Wine Cellar. Several popular chains have outlets here, including Starbucks, Subway, Wendy’s, and Chick-fil-A. There is also a convenience store in Terminal A’s food court that sells pre-packaged snacks and drinks.

Things to do around IAH

Stiff from a long layover or delayed flight and unable to stretch your legs? IAH has got your back with several massage chairs sitting at each corner. This option is great for business travelers, particularly if they are leaving on a hectic schedule. 

Complete the pampering by getting a high-quality manicure and pedicure before you embark on your journey. IAH XpresSpa offers manicures, pedicures, waxing, and a variety of massages. The spa can be found near gate 45 on the central concourse.

After this refreshing and rejuvenating experience, it’s time to take in some local art. IAH Airport has one of the largest collections of public art in Texas. Scattered throughout the airport’s terminals, the impressive collection features more than 350 sculptures, photographs, and paintings mainly by Texas artists.

Do you want to get into the vacation mood before arriving at your destination? Then head to the Central Concourse Rotunda and watch the Houston Airport performance of Harmony in the Air. There, a diverse selection of classical, jazz, pop, and international music is performed by more than 75 of Houston’s professional musicians. The Harmony in the Air performances are held every weekday from noon to 3 p.m. There are, however, some performances that rotate every other week.

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