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.