The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has given Angolan operator Sonair (SOR, Luanda) permission to open up reservations for its 3x weekly Luanda-Houston Intc'l return service to the general public.

The official Angop news agency reports the move, which is effective from May 1, was formally announced by Sonair executive Filomeno da Luz Conceição Octávio Marlath during the ongoing Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston this week.

Sonair currently uses two B747-400s leased from Atlas Air (5Y, New York JFK) to service the route that, until now, has catered exclusively to US oil executives and workers commuting between Angola's offshore oil extraction platforms and their Houston headquarters.

According to the US State Department, US petroleum giants Chevron and Exxon Mobile have active operations in Angola while several other firms, including ConocoPhillips, Cobalt, and Vaalco, are active in deepwater exploration.

For its part, Sonair is the aviation unit of the state-owned petroleum corporation, Sonangol. Aside from the Houston Express, it also operates a fleet of two B737-700s, seven DHC-6-300s, and various other fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft mostly in support of the oil industry but also on scheduled domestic operations in Angola.