How Houston Hobby is preparing for its new international concourse to open

Houston Hobby Airport will soon open a new concourse and an immigration clearance mostly for Southwest Airlines. But will the lights work? Will the signs be readable? Will passengers know where they're going?

The answer will probably yes, and here's why. Last Saturday, the airport brought in more than 250 volunteers for a two-and-half hour simulation. 

What did they do? They pretended they were passengers.

Here's how the Houston Chronicle described it:

Anne Lewandowski flew in from Dallas early Saturday specifically to do what most travelers dread: go through airport security, wait on the uncomfortable terminal seats, and pass through immigration and customs proceedings. Her reward? A free Chick-fil-A breakfast sandwich, lunch from Pappas, and a peek at Hobby Airport's new international concourse.

"We're aviation geeks," said the 31-year-old technical writer at Southwest Airlines. "You don't get to see a new airport terminal every day."

In a release before the simulation, Hobby Airport outlined how it would work. When volunteers arrived, they were to be given a script that told them how they traveled to the airport and how they checked in for their fake flight. They also learned their flight number. From there, the airport directed them to try a "specific amenity."

Volunteers were also brought in to help train employees and assist the airport in testing emergency procedures. Afterward, the volunteers answered questions about the experience in an online survey. 

Houston is planning to open its expansion on Oct. 15. It will include a five-gate concourse, federal inspection services facility and a parking garage. Southwest Airlines will be the major beneficiary. According to the Houston Chronicle, it will use four of the gates. 

After the new concourse opens, Southwest plans a bunch of new service to Houston, including Cancun, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, and San Jose del Cabo/Los Cabo in Mexico, as well as San Jose, Costa Rica, and Belize City, Belize.

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