Yesterday, United Airlines submitted an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation for authority to provide service from four of its largest U.S. gateway cities – Newark/New York, Houston, Washington, D.C. and Chicago – to Havana’s José Martí International Airport.
Scheduled commercial flight service between Cuba and the US has been suspended for decades. Charter flights have connected the two countries in the interim, with carriers from JetBlue to American Airlines operating the flights.
“This is a historic moment for our company, our employees and, most importantly, our customers,” said Oscar Munoz, United’s president and chief executive officer. “We want to be the first choice for passengers traveling between the U.S. and Cuba. We’re able to offer customers the best access, convenience and connections to and from Havana through our industry-leading global route network, and we’re excited to compete for this important service.”
United’s proposal to DOT outlines its planned service to Havana from hubs serving four of the country’s largest Cuban-American populations. The service would include a total of 11 roundtrip flights per week with daily service from Newark Liberty and one additional Saturday flight (eight weekly flights), along with a Saturday-only flight from Houston George Bush Intercontinental, Washington Dulles and Chicago O’Hare (three weekly flights). If United’s application is approved, service to Havana on these routes will be operated with United Wi-Fi-equipped Boeing 737-800 two-cabin aircraft featuring 16 United First, 90 United Economy and 48 extra legroom United Economy Plus seats.
United launched UnitedtoCuba.com to create awareness of the significant economic and competitive benefits the airline’s service would provide, as well as the consumer benefits it would bring to individual, business and government customers. The website also offers customers the opportunity to voice their support for United’s service to Cuba.
Last year, the US and Cuba reached a bilateral agreement to establish scheduled air services between the two countries. The bilateral agreement will provides for both countries to offer up to 20 daily roundtrip flights per day between US cities and Havana, along with up to 10 daily roundtrip flights between the United States and each of Cuba’s nine other international airports. That means the opportunities for US carriers to operate up to 110 daily flights between the US and Cuba; the agreement does not affect charter service, which has been operating for some time.