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United's Houston hub sees boom in passengers as summer travel season begins

United Airlines now flying up to 80% of its pre-pandemic schedule out of Houston's Bush International Airport, yet another sign things are racing back to normal.

HOUSTON — Memorial Day weekend marked the beginning of the summer travel season. And what a difference a year makes. The Transportation Security Administration screened more than 7.1 million people over the weekend, that's a record since the pandemic started.

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The surge in passengers is also getting United Airlines operations at George Bush Intercontinental Airport almost back to normal. Aircraft that were once grounded because of the pandemic are in service again at IAH.

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"Everybody wants to see their families and friends and enjoy themselves," said Phil Griffith, United's new VP of Airport Operations at IAH.

Griffith said family vacations are fueling United's passenger boom since Spring Break. Terminal traffic defying the airline's own expectations over the holiday weekend.

"Thru the weekend we thought it was going to be 32,000 passengers a day, but we recently hit 34,000 and that's great for the Houston hub," Griffith said.

United is now flying up to 80% of its pre-pandemic schedule out of Houston.

"Clearly the impact of the vaccine has made a significant difference," Griffith said.

Flights are packed again especially on United's most popular routes.

"There's no doubt Mexico has been a highlight for us," Griffith said.

Bookings system-wide are up 214% compared to last year. United is also flying 100% of its routes to Latin America and the Caribbean.

"Our volumes in Latin America are higher than they were in 2019 at this time," Griffith said.

Translation: the Houston hub is as busy as it's been in a very long time and will only get busier over the summer.

"It was pretty desolate nine months ago compared to today," traveler Peter Gleason said. "I hope they open all the routes and we can get back to normal."

And there's a lot of new growth set to happen here at Bush Airport. United tells KHOU 11 News they're ready to launch 100 new flights as soon as this week.