Taking Off

First of many? Houston poised to become a gateway for direct flights to Cuba

First of many? Houston poised to become a gateway for direct flights to Cuba

Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama's administration has gradually eased restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba in hopes of developing "people-to-people" contact and supporting civil society in the long-sequestered communist island. 

On Thursday, Bush Intercontinental Airport is serving as the point of departure for the first chartered flight between Houston and Cuba. The 80 U.S. based, properly authorized passengers will return to Houston on Sunday.

 "If other groups want to plan a trip, we will be happy to facilitate," said Sonya Pimentel, charter director for Marazul.   

Operated by Miami Air and organized by Marazul, a Miami-based agency founded in 1979 to arrange visits home for Cuban Americans, the flight is the only one scheduled in the near future. 

"This is a wonderful, historic opportunity for Houston and it is a direct result of our efforts last year to position IAH as a US gateway for Cuba charter flights," said Darian Ward, public information officer for the Houston Airport System.

Ward expects this flight to be the first of many in the future, since the new regulations allow special travel visas for students, religious groups, some professionals and family members. 

"If other groups want to plan a trip, we will be happy to facilitate," said Sonya Pimentel, charter director for Marazul. 

Will you be queuing up for a trip to Havana