Airport Delays Also Happen “Over There”

Dariela Aquique

HAVANA TIMES — I want to let my regular readers know I was very eager to start writing again. After three months of more or less mandatory holidays, I was beginning to miss the frequent debates between commentators, both supporters and detractors.

I returned from the United States – the “land of opportunities” and home of the “American Dream” – three short days ago. I had been invited by Ted Henken to present a paper at the 24th Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE).

I was looking forward to seeing many things, Miami’s huge international airport, about which many people had told me, first and foremost. That immense facility, full of terminals, hallways, waiting areas, restaurants, cafeterias, gangways and escalators, elevators and shuttles, filled to the brim with people from across the globe, heading in different directions or immersed in dizzying cyberspace, connected to the Internet using their laptops, mobile phones or tablets while awaiting their flight, made a deep impression in me.

My visit to the United States began and ended at this airport. I will tell you the story in chapters, retrospectively.

My Return Home

I arrived at the airport at approximately 3:00 in the morning, because the ticket said one had to check in four hours before the flight. The flight was scheduled to depart at 8:00 a.m.

I’d had a number of surprising experiences during my stay in the USA, but one can’t have too many. The person who takes your luggage from the entrance to the check-in counter asked for a tip in a rather desperate manner, almost demanding it. This was coupled with the surprise of seeing that all of the employees there speak Spanish (Cuban-styled) and hearing someone (we never found out who) suddenly said that the plane wouldn’t be ready on time and that its departure was being pushed back to 1:00 in the afternoon.

It didn’t take long for people to get flustered and begin complaining. To make up for the inconvenience, the airline gave each passenger a 10-dollar coupon to have breakfast at Subway, which opened at 8 a.m. Those who live near the airport decided to return home and come back an hour before the flight. Those of us, like me, who had no other option, had to wait nine hours before going through the indicated gate (F-14).

An hour and a half later, someone announced over the PA system that the Miami-Santiago de Cuba flight (1751) would be departing on time, at 8 in the morning, through gate F-3. Happy over not having to wait there so many hours, we headed to the new gate.

The airline, however, had to contact the passengers who had left, as the flight could not depart without them, lest they sue the company. They weren’t able to get in touch with all of them, and the flight finally departed at noon, when the last two passengers who had gone home to rest arrived.

They only offered us a number of vague apologies for the incorrect information given us (which no one assumed responsibility for) and for having wasted our valuable time at one of the many waiting areas of Miami’s immense international airport. They never even offered us water, and the food coupon was useless, as it was only valid for purchases at Subway and this eatery was outside the boarding area.

Below is a picture in the waiting area, where one heard the occasional: “I can’t believe it, it’s as though we were in Cuba.” You see such things also happen over there.

To be continued…

2 thoughts on “Airport Delays Also Happen “Over There”

  • You were lucky, I arrived at Jose Marti Aeropuerto almost three hours prior to departure time. But, Immigration decided that I owed them some money for visa extension. Previously being married to a Cubana I had been using and paying$128 for a personal visa, but had been called by the Cuban Consulate to say that there had been a change and I could now stay for up to six months on a tourist visa, no word of extension. You may recall that you are not supposed to take CUCs out of Cuba, and I had not enough cash. So, I was taken to a room and interviewed by an officer with three (3) stars on his shoulders – he sought our address in Cuba and my wife’s name. He then entered a computer program and up popped a picture of my wife! So, another officer took me to a money machine to enable me to use my VISA card. But the machine had no money. So they took me to the Cadeca where I had to wait 45 minutes to get cash on my VISA card. Having obtained the 25 CUCs they took me to anothe kiosk to buy stamps to put on the back of the visa, then they took me to another office to have a lady stamp holes through the stamps and visa. Then I was allowed to return to the Air Canada counter where I was told that Immigration had closed the gates five minutes earlier and 35 minutes prior to the flight. The next flight was 24 hours later. So I had to return to the Cadeca to get more money to pay for taxis a night in Havana and food.
    Of course if my wife had not been a Cuban in Cuba, she would have stayed with me until I had to enter security – but not being allowed entrance into the buildings, she had gone off in the taxi particular to return to our town. When she is in Canada, having got her boarding pass and her baggage having been labelled, we usually go and have a coffee and chat until eventually she goes through security. The closing of gates in Canada is controlled by the airlines not by Immigration. Es Cuba!
    As Moses correctly observed, Castros’ Cuba is simply less perfect than most places.

  • Well, duh! Airport delays happen everywhere. Most of what ails Cuba can and does occur in the US as well. Buildings collapse in the US. Grocery stores run out of shelved items. The electricity even goes out at times. Here is the difference: when bad things happen in the US, there is usually someone you can complain to who can reimburse you for your time and money. In the US, you are likely to have a choice of service providers. Finally, the frequency of these failings is far less. No where and nobody is perfect. Castros’ Cuba is simply far less perfect than most places.

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