SonAir Is Discontinuing Flights Between Houston & Luanda

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Last July I wrote about SonAir, the carrier that operates twice weekly flights between Houston and Luanda. The route is referred to as the “Houston Express,” and at ~7,700 miles, it’s a long journey.

SonAir uses a 747-400 for the route (they apparently have two nearly identical planes), which has only 189 seats, including 10 “Business Deluxe” seats, 76 business class seats, 67 premium economy seats, and 36 economy seats. One of the planes operating the route has the tail number N322SG, which is a 17 year old Air Atlas 747-400. In looking at the plane’s history, it was first operated by ANA, then Oasis Hong Kong, and then Atlas Air since 2010.

This flight used to only be available to US oil executives and workers who commuted between Angola’s offshore oil extraction platforms and Houston. However, as of May 2017 the flight became bookable to the general public. The major things standing in the way of me trying it have been the cost of a ticket, the complications of booking (the flight isn’t bookable online), and the challenges associated with getting a visa for Angola.

Unfortunately it looks like I may have waited too long, because it’s now being reported that SonAir intends to discontinue their Houston to Luanda route as of March 28, 2018.

When I first wrote about this flight I said I could see the logic in the route during the peak of oil, but nowadays such a long flight with so few seats seems tough to make profitable. I imagine cargo played a big part in the route’s success, though it seems that wasn’t enough.

While it looks like I’ll never have a chance to experience the Houston Express, at least I’ll have the chance to try Angola’s national airline in first class.

I’m curious what they’ll be using these two 747s for in the future.

(Tip of the hat to Dave)

  1. I flew that route twice. The cabin crew team was both attentive and attractive/suggestive (unlike so many US carriers where you can’t tell if you are dealing with a grumpy Walmart cashier or a real stewart). Decent food.

  2. @SeanM – who cares about FAs being attractive? I want people to be good at their jobs. While I agree that part of a Flight Attendant’s job is to be pleasant (just like what I expect from anyone in a customer-facing job), their looks don’t and shouldn’t play a factor.

  3. @Josh – I DO care about crew being attractive. Do you have a problem with that?

    I am not a male feminist For your information, my secretaries are also attractive and I am not gonna lie and pretend that attractiveness is a minor point in my hiring checklist.

  4. SeanM – Yes indeed I have a problem with that. These people aren’t around to fulfill your sexual urges and it’s just generally classless and tacky.

    The idea that you have to be a feminist to not judge women on their looks is also rather hilarious (and disturbing in equal measure).

  5. Not saying I completely agree with SeanM, but it’s laughable that in today’s world people aren’t allowed to prefer attractiveness over attractiveness. It’s the literal definition of the word.

  6. @conor – I’m not saying I prefer UNattractive people. I’m saying it’s simply not a factor.

    @SeanM – I feel badly for your employees. You know they’re not being employed to get you off, right? Creeper…

  7. @seanM Totally agree. When you judge FA, you should judge every factor. and attractiveness is one of the factor. It is like going into a Saks or Barney’s NY and find out that all of their sales are those fat grumpy women from walmart. you wouldn’t buy a thing.
    When you judge a person, you look at his/her characteristic. Personality is one characteristic, and attractiveness is another. Smart is one, hardworking is one, sexy is one, and attractive is one.

    If you can hire a secretary because she is smart and hardworking, why can’t you hire her if she is sexy and attractive?

  8. I think they are writing from the White House. I’m sure they are anything but attractive and more than likely are of below average size.
    Dream on.

  9. World Airways flew that route many years before Atlas. World lost the contract as SonAir wanted a 744. I worked that flight with as few as 3 passengers on board, and 12 cabin crew. No wonder SonAir is finally dumping Atlas.

  10. Atlas doesn’t own the A/c. They’re owned by Sonagal Oil. Atlas operated them for Sonagol under the name Son Air, a subsidiary of Sonogal. No harm to Atlas, pilots are hard to come by and Atlas business is booming. FAs will work AMC charters with Atlas Pax 74/76 a/c.

  11. I prefer attractive male FAs to unattractive ones, is that wrong? No, it’s a perfectly fine opinion, just like the ones above. If you say otherwise, from either sex, you’re just lying. We evolved to like attractive people.
    Or be weak, never find a mate, and keep acting like you enjoy ugly people!

    -Female, NY, 22y/o… did I break enough of your stupid SJW conceptions?

  12. Angola is a real” shit hole” as a famous American President recently said IT a lot of oil and a extremely despotic government. Little of the oil money trickles down. Hope you don’t get stuck in Luanda. It’s the most expensive city on the planet.

  13. Lucky — If you contact me, I can show you how to legitimately get a second or even a third U.S. passport through the State Department so that you can send one or two of your passports to an embassy for a visa request while travelling with the 2nd or 3rd one. It’s the same rule exception that White House journalists use so that they can travel with the President on short-notice overseas.

  14. Air France from SFO to Paris sounds great if I can use my AC points and avoid AC food and service. Easy connection from YVR and perhaps a nice couple of days in SF.

  15. I flew the Houston Express many times over the years 2003 thru 2015. The 747 was put on the flight ~ 5 years ago, before that the main aircraft was a wide body McDonald Douglas DC10(?) freighter that was converted to passenger status and with a supplemental fuel tank added could make the flight nonstop Houston Luanda but had to stop to fuel up and the way back due to jet stream (usually at Cape Verde Islands). Sometimes the flight back would cut across the Atlantic and follow the coast of S America into the Caribbean to Houston. The 747 was a great improvement and could make the trip easily and cut off mileage my flying more direct route as the plane is more reliable than the old DC that tended to hug the coasts just in case. The 747 flight is operated by Atlas Air out of Atlanta for Sonair and underwritten with guaranteed bookings by Chevron, Exxon, Schlumberger and Halliburton. There were three round trips per week in 2015 which apparently dropped to two when the price of oil cratered that year. If the flight is canceled it is due to lack or traffic in the oil and gas sector. Business class was fantastic service with five course meals and all the Napa valley Cabernet you could drink before a good nights sleep (12 – 14 hours in the air). Round trip in business class was ~$10,000 in 2015.

  16. @Jackson The 744s are owned by Atlas Air and operated for SonAir on an ACMI lease. When the operation ends Atlas will have to find a new customer to lease them to or park them in the desert.

  17. Flew this flight many times in 06-07. It was a great flight. Sad to see that it will be ending soon. Don’t know about recent times, but TAAG Air was blacklisted by the company I worked for for safety concerns back then.

  18. The planes are not owned by Atlas (yet). Atlas isn’t being “dumped” by SonAir. SonAir can no longer afford the flights, as they are no longer profitable due to low PAX numbers.

  19. I fly the Houston Express from 2008 – 2011 and 2014- 2015 and had a great with world air and atlas some guys were not with the in crowd of Angolan’s or Expats ..Nd all of the Fan’s were beautiful in and out of uniform. Do gripe until you totally immerse yourself ..
    Yours truly Rodrigo Branco aka
    Cabasanga 1

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