Cuba, Here We Come

United Airlines wins the non-stop Houston-Havana route, one of only 10 cities approved

United Airlines wins the non-stop Houston-Havana

Red Car at Dusk, Cuba 2001
United Airlines granted rights for Houston-Havana non-stop flights, wheels up on Saturdays later this year. Photo by R.P. Washburne

No habla español? Better start working your foreign language skills as United Airlines has been approved for commercial airline service from Houston nonstop to Havana. It's one of eight airlines that have tentatively (read that a slam dunk) won Department of Transportation license to land in Havana. The announcement was made Thursday.

United will offer once-weekly non-stop flights on Saturdays. 

The Chicago-based carrier expects to begin flights from Houston and from New York/Newark later this year, which according to a United press release "would make it one of the first U.S. airlines to provide commercial service to Havana – and the first airline to offer U.S.-Havana service from outside Florida. Other airlines crowing over the Havana approval are American, JetBlue, Delta, Alaska Airlines ,Frontier, Spirit Airlines, and Southwest Airlines.

In June, the DOT approved six U.S. airlines, including Texas-based Southwest and American, to fly to lesser Cuba destinations. Thursday's announcement revealed the coveted rights to land in Havana. American Airlines received the highest number of daily flights to the Cuban capitol, tentatively granted four from its Miami hub and one from its Charlotte, North Carolina, hub. Southwest non-stop service will originate in Fort Lauderdale and Tampa.

“Houstonians will have a historic opportunity to board one of the first commercial flights to Havana in more than a half century,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a statement. “U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and United recognize the very significant economic and consumer benefits these flights will bring to Houston-area residents, travelers, businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Houston's Cuban-American population estimated at 20,000.