Cuba Copies the Eritrean Model of Closed Airports

July 31, 2014 | Print Print |

Fernando Ravsberg*

This is the chaos caused by the officials running the José Martí airport by prohibiting companions to enter without first creating the minimum conditions outside the facility.

This is the chaos caused by the officials running the José Martí airport by prohibiting companions to enter without first creating the minimum conditions outside the facility.

HAVANA TIMES — The Jose Marti airport administrator told Granma newspaper that there are many other airport terminals in the world where entry is forbidden to persons accompanying a passenger, but did not name any of them.

A reader of this blog agrees: “There is at least one other airport that shares this rare privilege, that of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. The difference there is that in front is a restaurant where you can hang out and entertain yourself while saying goodbye or waiting for a passenger.”

I’m not an expert on the subject but I guess that Eritreans must be considered a top authority on airport administration. Otherwise Cuba would not have decided to copy their practices and restrictions.

Copying is not shameful but copying wrong, putting the cart before the horse, is a pain. The managers of the Havana Airport applied the prohibition of entry first and left the opening of a restaurant for an uncertain future.

Meanwhile, while they plan the construction of a space in front of the airport terminal, those sending off relatives or friends have to say goodbye in the middle of the street or wait for incoming passengers in the same place. Something that, as we see, does not even occur in Eritrea.

They say that the restriction “is about providing better service and attention to those arriving or leaving Cuba, as required when they pay for a ticket. Do not forget that the airport is the first impression that many tourists will have of the country.”

This must be the dream of staff, a clean, spacious and empty airport.

This must be the dream of staff, a clean, spacious and empty airport.

However, after restricting entry into the airport building the chief complaint of passengers has not changed, as they often have to wait for 2 to 3 hours for their bags to come out. One wonders if such delays are within “the recommended international standards” mentioned in Granma?

Apparently the delays within the airport are not very important to the airport administrators because it’s been going on for many years. However, they do take radical measures to eject their fellow citizens from the facilities.

They should realize that because of their own administrative inefficiency, the family or friends that greet visitors has to wait those same three hours in the street without a place to sit, get a glass of water, or without even a bathroom.

“Do not forget that the airport is the first impression that many tourists will have of the country”, they remind us and almost make us feel guilty of the bad image of Cuba visitors would have if they see us drinking a coffee inside the terminal.

Actually the bad impression to the traveler happens when suitcases don’t appear for hours; when they unload the baggage from the same flight on two different carousels; when no one can find a baggage cart; and when the baggage assistants offer to get you out of there “quickly” for money, and nobody can explain what’s happening.

Delays at the airport are the main problem faced by travelers and in that respect nothing has changed.

Delays at the airport are the main problem faced by travelers and in that respect nothing has changed.

Then the bad impression increases upon setting foot on the street. After hours of a grueling wait you find hundreds of sweaty and tired people, bunched together behind a fence like cattle, who must urinate in the parking lot for a lack of a better place.

This situation also affects the image that the Cubans themselves have of their country and themselves. Many wonder how they can be treated that way by public officials when they themselves pay their wages.

The intellectual Esteban Morales went to all corners of the airport looking for an explanation without success. He concluded that it “appears to be a bad joke or the whim of some bureaucrat, who came up with such a solution?”

A renowned filmmaker told me that “After two hours of waiting, my wife and I entered the building without permission. After going to the bathroom in shifts, we sat down at the table of one of the cafeterias (she ordered a bottle of water and I a beer). ”

He added: “An airport employee came over and told us we had to wait outside. I responded that the waiting rooms of airports are public places – and told the comrade that only by force could he make us leave. Of course we stayed. ”
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 (*) Visit the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.

 


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    The way Cuban bureaucrats treat fellow Cubans is very curious. For those who have never been to Cuba or who have been but had no interaction with Cuban bureaucrats, I can best describe it as saying it’s like visiting a DMV anywhere in the US but at least twice as bad. I remember a manager at the Banco Metropolitano in Havana on San Lazaro near Infanta who forced bank patrons to form a line outside in the sun. When someone in line asked why customers couldn’t wait inside in the air-conditioned bank, he told the customer that a crowd of people waiting inside was unseemly and people would talk and distract bank employees from doing their work.

  • BZ

    The airports in the United States of America also limit access to the gate areas to ticketed passengers.

    • http://www.havanatimes.org/ Circles Robinson

      In this case the writer is talking about the non-gate areas of the airport.