The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has tentatively awarded United Airlines and Mesa Airlines authority to begin offering daily non-stop service between Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Havana's José Martí International Airport.
Subject to final government approval, United will expand from Saturday-only service to daily service.
“On behalf of United Airlines, we applaud the US Department of Transportation's decision to increase United service between Houston and Havana from Saturday-only to daily," said Steve Morrissey, United's vice president of regulatory and policy.
United's Saturday-only service between Houston and Havana was launched in December 2016. It plans to operate service between Houston and Havana with either Boeing 737-800 mainline aircraft or Embraer E175 regional aircraft.
Mesa Airlines will operate regional jet aircraft as United Express. Embraer E175 two-cabin regional jet offers 12 seats in United First and 64 seats in United Economy, including 16 extra-legroom Economy Plus seats.
The DOT has also issued tentative allocations for re-assigned US-Havana routes to four other carriers:
- American Airlines from Miami, once daily
- Delta Air Lines from Miami, once daily
- JetBlue Airways from Fort Lauderdale, six times weekly (Sunday-Friday)
- JetBlue Airways from Boston, once weekly (Saturday)
- Southwest Airlines from Fort Lauderdale, once daily
The department said its main objective in making its proposed selections was to maximise public benefits, including choosing carriers that offered and could maintain the best ongoing service between the US and Havana.
Under an arrangement with Cuba signed in 2016, each country may operate up to 20 daily roundtrip flights between the US and Havana. Several US carriers that were awarded flights in 2016 have since returned them, and DOT is seeking to reallocate them to interested carriers.
Objections to DOT’s tentative decision are due by 16 April 2018.