United gets OK to begin flights to Cuba

Airline will offer daily service from Houston, Newark

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Chicago Tribune

United Airlines will begin flights to Havana this fall, the airline said in a news release Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation had tentatively given United approval to operate nonstop flights between Havana and its hubs in Newark, N.J., and Houston in July.

With the official go-ahead, United plans to start daily nonstop flights from Newark and Saturday nonstop flights from Houston on Nov. 29, subject to final government approval, United said.

The flights are available for booking on United’s website. The airline will use Boeing 737 aircraft on both routes.

“I’m incredibly proud of all the dedicated aviation professionals here at United who are working hard to get our historic Cuba service ready for takeoff in November,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in the news release. “The final approval by the DOT reaffirms that our flights will ensure better choice, convenience and competition for all travelers on this important route, and I want to thank the DOT for their decision.”

The first scheduled commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba in more than five decades, from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Santa Clara, arrived Wednesday.

“Today’s actions are the result of months of work by airlines, cities, the U.S. government, and many others toward delivering on President Obama’s promise to re-engage with Cuba,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a news release. “Transportation has a unique role in this historic initiative and we look forward to the benefits these new services will provide to those eligible for Cuba travel.”

The Department of Transportation gave six airlines — American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Silver Airways, Southwest Airlines and Sun Country — permission to resume scheduled commercial air service to nine Cuban cities other than Havana in June.

The only flights connecting Chicago and Cuba approved so far are both operated by Frontier Airlines.

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