HOUSTON – The first direct flight from Houston to Cuba in more than 50 years took off Saturday from Bush Intercontinental Airport.
“This is truly a historic moment; it is a moment of opportunity,” Houston aviation director Mario Diaz said. “This flight is important because it is an expression -- it really is an expression of hope, an expression of optimism. It is an expression of the belief that we can resurrect a relationship with a friend, a neighbor, that has languished for over a half a century.”
The United Airlines nonstop flight from Houston is the only flight to Cuba originating from the southwest region of the U.S.
Mayor Sylvester Turn joined a group that gathered in Terminal E to celebrate the historic flight.
“This is an exciting time for all Americans, not just those of us living here in Houston,” Turn said. “This is a dream come true for millions of people in the U.S. who have waited for more than 50 years for this time to come. Since the embargo with Cuba was implemented in 1960, millions of family members have spent decades without a chance to see their loved ones.”
United Airlines has been working closely with the Cuban government and local airport service providers to prepare for the operation into the José Martí International Airport since the Department of Transportation announced its preliminary Havana route awards in July.
"Houston has long been our Latin American and Caribbean gateway, so the importance of this route, for both our airline, employees and our customers, can't be understated," Steve Morrissey, United Airlines' vice president of regulatory and policy, said. "It has the power to open the door to Cuba for travelers in a large portion of the U.S., and that's something that we're very excited about."