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Prost, y'all! United launches new international nonstop from Houston with party, George Clooney-like flyer

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Mario Diaz, Sheila Jackson Lee and band at inaugural United flight to Munich
From left, Department of Aviation director Mario Diaz, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and members of oompah band at Bush Intercontinental Airport. Photo by Clifford Pugh
Woman greets travelers in Munich after inaugural United flight
Upon arriving on the inaugural flight from Houston to Munich, travelers were greeted by a dirndl-wearing woman bearing a cookie gift. Photo by Clifford Pugh
Leigh Skinner, Gaye McFarland, Jim Shelly on launch of United flight to Munich
From left, Leigh Skinner, who has worked with United Airlines for 47 years, Gaye McFarland, who has been with the airline 51 years, and frequent flyer Jim Shelly. Photo by Clifford Pugh
Munich Germany airport
The Munich airport offers convenient connections to Europe and the Middle East. Courtesy of Munich Airport
Ceramic cow at Marriott Munich hotel on United launch
A ceramic steer greeted Houstonians at the Marriott Munich hotel after the inaugural launch of United Airlines service. Photo by Clifford Pugh
Munich airport
Munich Airport tower. Courtesy of Munich Airport
United launches service to Munich
Sign at the Munich airport touts the new service. Photo by Clifford Pugh
Mario Diaz, Sheila Jackson Lee and band at inaugural United flight to Munich
Woman greets travelers in Munich after inaugural United flight
Leigh Skinner, Gaye McFarland, Jim Shelly on launch of United flight to Munich
Munich Germany airport
Ceramic cow at Marriott Munich hotel on United launch
Munich airport
United launches service to Munich

Houston travelers to Europe, India and the Middle East just got another convenient option as United Airlines launched daily nonstop service to Munich Thursday. With a German oompah band and a Houston Grand Opera singer who sang a selection from Das Reinghold at the gate before the inaugural flight took off from Bush Intercontinental Airport, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee touted the new service and lamented that she wasn’t on the inaugural flight.

"It looks like those of us who are envious are not able to get into someone's suitcase and head on to Munich," she said with a laugh.

 U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee touted the new service and lamented that she wasn’t on the inaugural flight. 

Noting that the service brings closer ties to destinations in Eastern Europe, including war-torn Ukraine, she added, "When we partnership with nonstop flights from Houston to Munich, we reinforce the friendship between Germany and the United States and the opportunities for us to stand together for democracies around the world."

United invited a small group of reporters, including this CultureMap representative, and a number of corporate clients on the inaugural flight. Also on board was frequent flyer Jim Shelly, who was celebrating two million miles traveled on United. "Like George Clooney (in Up in the Air), I only have eight million more miles to go," he joked.

The Houston-Munich flight marked the marketing consultant's 13th inaugural flight on the airline. (His first was the New York- Hong Kong inaugural flight in 2001.)

"I sleep better here than I do in my own bed," Shelly said about his business/first-class seat on the first row that transforms into a fold-out flat bed.

Helping to serve him and the other travelers were United International Service manager Leigh Skinner, who has flown with the airline for 46 years, and flight attendant Gaye McFarland, who will celebrate her 52-year-anniversary with the airline this month. (Both employees worked for Continental Airlines before it merged with United in 2010.)

The Boeing 767-400 plane with 39 business class seats and 203 economy seats flies daily between Houston and Munich, a laid-back city known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration and BMW headquarters.

United officials are touting the Bavarian capital as a destination tourist city but are also emphasizing connecting service to 71 cities in Europe, Middle East and India via Star Alliance partner Lufthansa. Rome, Athens, Bucharest and Florence are top destinations via Munich in early bookings.

The Munich nonstop, a 10-hour, 13-minute flight from Houston, also appears to set up a healthy competition between United and  Turkish Airlines, which offers daily nonstop service between Houston and Istanbul, with connections to many of the same cities that United is touting.

Upon arriving in Munich Friday morning, Houstonians on the inaugural United flight were ferried to the Marriott Munich, where they were welcomed with country-western music, nachos, a big pot of chili and a life-size ceramic steer with dotted lines representing various cuts of beef

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