Let the Good Times Roll - United Hub

Let the good times roll

For the first time in 50 years, Americans can legally get their hands on Cuban cigars. Here, a beginner's guide to finding the best stogie.

By The Hub team

Story by Richard Morgan |Rhapsody, December 2016

La Casa del Habano in Havana's Miramar neighborhood is nicknamed Quinta Avenida—Fifth Avenue—for good reason. It's essentially the Tiffany's of tobacco: a marble-tiled smoking room with plush armchairs, an immense walk-in humidor, and a roaming peacock.

Carlos Robaina has been tending the store for nearly a decade. He is as close to tobacco royalty as it gets. His father, Alejandro Robaina, the most prominent tobacco titan in the world, received a medal in the 1990s from Fidel Castro that acknowledged him to be the country's best grower; his son, Hirochi Robaina, now runs the plantation that has been in their family since 1845.

But here at the Miramar shop's restaurant—the only cigar-shop restaurant in Havana—over cortaditos (Cuban espressos) that taste as rich and earthy as the smoke in the air, Robaina laughs when a visitor asks which cigar is best. “Which wine is best?" he asks. “Do not choose it. Let it choose you."

Choices now abound for American tobacco lovers. Cuban cigars have always been freely available in London, Rome, Shanghai, and anywhere that didn't have an embargo against Cuban goods, but they have attained legendary status for Americans—not only for their greatness, but for their forbidden greatness.

Now, with commercial flights from America landing in Havana for the first time in half a century, Cuban cigars are, well, catching fire. In October, the Obama administration lifted the five-decade-long trade ban on cigars, allowing Americans to purchase as many as they want as long as they are for personal consumption. This will no doubt spur even more travel to the country. Next year's annual Habano Cigar Festival, from February 25 to March 4, is expected to be record-setting.

“Like your vacation, a cigar is an experience that begins to end the moment you start it. Until you try it again."

As for picking the cigars themselves, there are two main approaches, one for shop purchases and one for factory purchases. According to Richard Carleton Hacker, author of The Ultimate Cigar Book, when buying a box in a shop, it's always best to check the cigars' shade and the degree to which the tobacco is all the same color. The idea is not to favor dark over light—that's a matter of personal taste—but rather that the tobacco in the box is consistent; a mixed box is a poorly made box. And on individual cigars, it's important to check the wrapper for tears, holes, or dark spots; damaged wrappers will hinder the smoking experience.

In factories, on the other hand, Hacker says, “you can have the experience of driving your Mercedes right off the assembly line in Stuttgart." Cuban cigars are hand-rolled, and the rollers are rated on their skill level; grade-seven rollers are the best, able to roll figurados—cigars in complicated shapes. While it's rude to ask a roller directly what his or her grade is, Hacker advises asking the factory manager to point out who the sevens are.

Back in the Miramar shop, Carlos Robaina isn't discussing color, shape, grade, or even price. Strolling through the humidor, he waves at his cache of tobacco. “You can buy it, but you cannot have it," he says. “These are not cigars. This is Cuba. Like your vacation, a cigar is an experience that begins to end the moment you start it." He smiles. “Until you try it again."

United Cargo operates more than 11,000 cargo-only flights in one year

By The Hub team, March 19, 2021

On March 19, 2020, United operated its first flight carrying cargo without passengers on board. While the passenger cabin was empty, its cargo hold was completely full, carrying more than 29,000 pounds of commodities from Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD) to Frankfurt Airport (FRA).

A year later, United Cargo has operated more than 11,000 cargo-only flights carrying more than 570 million pounds of freight. To support the COVID-19 pandemic recovery efforts, United Cargo has also transported more than 113 million pounds of medical and pharmaceutical products on both cargo-only and passenger flights as well as approximately 10 million COVID-19 vaccines, providing global communities access to the items they have needed most.

10 tips for spring travel

By The Hub team, February 24, 2021

Whether you haven't flown with us for a while or just need a quick refresher before your spring trip, read this list of tips to know before your flight and arrive at the airport travel-ready:

1. Download the United app for contactless bag check, travel assistance and more

Before your flight, download the United app to view your flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, locate departure gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. We've also updated our app with new features that can make your trip a little safer, including contactless bag check.

Don't forget to use Agent on Demand for help with any and all questions you may have before your flight. This new capability is available at all our U.S. hub airports and allows you to use your own mobile device to contact a customer service agent via phone, video or chat to help with day-of-travel questions while you're at the airport. Learn more about Agent on Demand here.

United joins UNICEF COVAX initiative

By The Hub team, February 19, 2021

This week, we were honored to become the first U.S. airline to join the UNICEF Humanitarian Airfreight Initiative to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by transporting the vaccine and other critically needed supplies to underserved areas of the globe.

"We are committed to helping the global community in any way we can, and we all must work together to do our part to bring this health and humanitarian crisis to an end," said Director of Cargo Specialty Products Manu Jacobs.

We will leverage our expertise to transport these critical pharmaceutical and healthcare shipments around the world safely, efficiently and expediently. We are proud to partner with the United Nations to support this global effort and provide equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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