A Trip Frustrated by Intransigence

Havana airport photo by Caridad

Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — Berta has lived in Mexico for several years. From there, working hard, she has found a way to help her family. Every so often she visits her mother here in Cuba, but this last trip wound up being unforgettable.

She spent a week at her mother’s house and on May 4, on the way back to the airport, the car she was in had problems with one of his tires, so the driver stopped to fix it. That of course changed the pace of the trip, but since Berta had sufficient time she wasn’t overly concerned.

She makes this same journey every time she returns from Mexico and she always gets back in time for her job. What this means is that she goes from the airport in Mexico straight to work, resting only when the day ends.

Bound for Mexico, this time Berta arrived to Terminal 3 of Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport at 3:05 pm.

She immediately went over to the “Interjet” office (the airline that she flies) to talk with the manager, Mr. Guillermo Perez Barcenas. He told her that as of 3:00 p.m. the line had closed, which was to say that it had closed only five minutes earlier, through there was still almost an hour before her departure.

Bertha spent a long time explaining that she worked that night, begging them to help her out since the plane was still on tarmac (the passengers still hadn’t boarded, and even Mr. Barcenas himself admitted that they hadn’t sold all the seats).

She then spoke with people in the Air Traffic and the Immigration departments (where they were willing to help her if Mr. Barcenas gave his approval). She walked from one end of the airport to the other for help, but the manager didn’t allow her to check in. So she couldn’t travel that day.

Berta went through many feelings from that time until he returned home and told this story. She had felt surprise at the absurdity of it all, despair because of the time that passed, concern about the possibly of losing her job, anger over the intolerance, and doubts about the integrity of the manager.

I have never traveled abroad, but there are famous stories about extortion at the airport, especially directed at Cubans who are entering or leaving the country. Berta and others who were unable to travel that day thought that if they had offered the employees some money, they might have been able to get on the flight – though none of them had decided to take that step.

Even so, no one wanted to complain, according to Berta, not even about the headstrong ways of that manager. He shouted and even commanded that one employee shut up when the person was trying to explain something to passengers.

The next day everyone went and paid around 195 USD for the date change of their flight, but what’s most likely is that they won’t fly Interjet anymore. Nonetheless Berta wrote letters to various places, complaining especially about the abusive treatment and rudeness of that manager.

I still don’t know if Berta lost her job because of that stubbornness.

Of course some folks will say that the manager was just doing his own job, but what’s so striking is that he left the customers so unprotected. Shouldn’t it have been the other way around?

So, it seems that the customer isn’t always right? Not even when they pay.



Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.

Irina Echarry has 232 posts and counting. See all posts by Irina Echarry

4 thoughts on “A Trip Frustrated by Intransigence

  • Mr Hans, you’re absolutely right! you should go back to Switzerland, but before you leave… would you please review your post and make the appropiate language corrections; Im trying to understand what you just wrote. Irina, Im sorry to hear what has happened to your friend; Airlines companies are usually flexible to their customers , but you should be at least an hour earlier before your flight departure. Also, depending on which Airline you are about to book your flight, you may have to arrive at the desk as early as 3 hours before plaine take off time. For example, if you are traveling to Colombia, Mexico, or Dominican Republic using Spirit Airlines you must be at the Airline desk 3 hours before departure time. When in doubt you can check your ticket online, of course such indulgence may or not be available to travelers at Jose Marti international airport.

  • @ Moses we all know that we have a problem, but it does not serve well to the population to sugar it up. If you take in consideration that other Countries in the Americas are in much worser shape than you have to say so. The Situation with American is not good, if the Emgargo falls you will see a lot of fleed Cubanos going back to Cuba, unpaid Housing, unpaid cars and so fort, you and I have to pay for that and come up with the difference, of course you in California not. I live in Florida, maybe than its time for me to go back to Switzerland, the Land of the Free and let go the Society here down the tube.

  • Hans, I get your message, and I agree with your response to Air France’s insensitve mistreatment of you. As a consumer it is your right to “vote with your feet” and take your business elsewhere. The difference in Cuba is the consumer has no other choice. Travelers must accept this disrespectful and incompetent customer service because of the government monopoly. I hope you get the message as well.

  • Irina, when I was in Torion this spring for Assessment of the MLC_2006, which I passed and I am UN Certified I had to change the plane because somebody in the line has booked my flight not correctly to get to Paris and than a could board my plane to Miami, they (Air France) wish to collect an extra USD 700.00 which I have not accepted. It was easier to go by Train via Milano to Zurich, buy a new one way ticket for USD 600.00 and stay over my House in Switzerland. All this Buerocrates, enywhere in this world, do not get it. Keep in mind my family will not fly anymore from now on with Air France, they are a dead fish in the water, my family consist about 15 people, me, my wife, two Kids, 6 Grand Kid and two Geat Grand Kids, brother and Sister and their familiies, not even emntioned all my friend, this is the spupidities of buerocrates they can care less. Government act the same way, what a waist! I hope you get the message!!

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