I called the Houston Hobby (HOU) airport my home for several years before moving on. I’ve always liked it. It’s a smaller airport, but just big enough to get you just about wherever you want to go on Southwest in one hop. Here you can fly anywhere from around Texas to New York (LGA). The airport features 20 gates notably dominated by Southwest. It’s recently seen a host of improvements including TSA Pre-check, Clear, and a new baggage claim. It has a small food court in the middle along with local restaurants further into the terminal itself.
Hobby Airport has a T-shaped airline terminal with gates 20 – 29 on the left and gates 40 – 49 on the right. It hosts a bevy of Texas-based restaurants from the Pappas Bros including Pappas Burger, Pappasitos, and Pappadeaux’s. You can find free WiFi at any of the Pappas Bros restaurants along with Buffalo Wild Wings. However, the Internet is often spotty and I find I end up using my own most of the time. You can find power pretty easily at all of the Southwest gates features AC and USB chargers.
You never know what you will find in the center of the airport. Right now, it’s a display for the Houston Rodeo.
If you’re traveling to the east coast, it is not uncommon to pick up a layover here if your home is one of Texas’s other Southwest airports. If that happens, you need to know where to go. If you like Cajun or seafood, the best food there is hands-down at Pappadeaux. Here you can get seasonal fish and all your fried Cajun favorites. It will cost you a pretty penny with many meals costing more than $20 USD.
For other food options, I go with Dunkin Donuts for breakfast located at the end of the terminal by gate 27. If you want a sit down breakfast and have time to kill, go with Pappas Burger as they have a variety of breakfast taco type options. They also have power in the booths along the back wall. In the afternoon, this is also a good place to get a shake.
If you want quick service, Papasitos has some decent tacos. Lastly, Buffalo Wild Wings (gate 24) is always a favorite for dudes. When I go there, I often wait outside and wait for a seat at the bar to open up. It gets a bit crowded though.
If you are waiting outside the security check point, there is a Pappas BBQ with a bar. They generally have at least one acceptable beer, but I am not a fan of the BBQ there at all. I guess I am just spoiled by the Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX (FYI, never eat at a Salt Lick in an airport). That and I don’t think you can properly smoke meat in an airport.
Hobby Airport is one of the few airports where you can walk around with an open container. As a result, you can get a drink anywhere to go. As a result, it is not uncommon to see beer vendors in the middle of the terminal. You just need to down it before you get on the plane. It’s also a good idea to not get to intoxicated at the airport as Southwest has no issue denying boarding to people who aren’t sober.
The security lines can be quite long at Hobby at times. This is especially the case if you are traveling Monday morning or Thursday evening. If you have priority, the wait generally isn’t too bad. They have also recently added TSA Pre and Clear. If you don’t have expedited screening, plan on waiting a bit longer.
Hobby Airport has off site rental car locations. Each location has their own shuttle bus. Avis and Budget are closer to the airport. Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, and the others are considerably farther away. Like any airport, expect to wait longer than any other carrier with Dollar and Thrifty. You get what you pay for.
Parking on-site at Hobby will cost you $17 / day. It features the same windy spiral ramps that IAH does. You have no hope of parking on a low level most of the time. If you’re paying for your own parking, your best bet is Eco-Park or one of the off-site providers. Eco-Park is around $6 / day but it’s a bit of a walk and it is uncovered. Sometimes, you can find a shuttle to take you some of the distance but I have walked all the way to the terminal a time or two. When you do Eco-Park, you will feel like you are walking through a restricted area because you go right through the employee parking lot. Once you get inside, you walk through some hallways where you also don’t feel like you belong. The off-site parking options have similar prices.
The Future – International Service
Southwest fought hard to get International service at Hobby Airport. Ultimately, they won and are footing the bill of the new expansion where they will occupy four out of five gates. When it finishes at the end of 2015, Hobby Airport will serve as a hub for people going to the Caribbean and Mexico on Southwest. This conveniently goes along with the absorption of the remaining AirTran International flights this year. This will make Houston Hobby quite the popular airport in the years to come.
More information can be found at their web site.