My Last And Worst Flight Of 2016

I’ve spent the past couple of days in Cuba, and yesterday morning I was scheduled to fly from Havana to Fort Lauderdale on Southwest Airlines. I’ll have a lot more about my thoughts on visiting Cuba and our overall experience at the airport on arrival and departure in future posts, but first wanted to highlight the unfortunately travel day I had yesterday.

Like many frequent flyers, I’m accustomed enough to delays so that I’m not shocked when they happen. Just in the past couple of months I’ve had a four hour delay on Ukraine International Airlines and a three hour delay on Garuda Indonesia. While delays are never fun, ultimately I can work from anywhere with an internet connection. So my feeling towards delays come down to how good of a job the airline does communicating with passengers.

Well, yesterday I had what I can only describe as the worst delay of my life. That’s not to say that it was the longest, but rather that it was the mostly poorly communicated and handled from start to finish, with the least pleasant circumstances.

We were scheduled to fly from Havana to Fort Lauderdale at 8:30AM, and showed up at the airport at 6:15AM, over two hours before departure.

The line to check-in was insane, though on the plus side everyone was on the same flight as us, so I figured they’d wait for everyone. Besides, there ended up being over 50 more people behind us in line.

havana-airport-1

havana-airport-2

I figured that the line would at least move quickly, but it didn’t. We waited in line for over 90 minutes to check in. That’s not an exaggerated number, but actually 90 minutes — we had our boarding passes after 7:45AM.

Then we had to wait in the immigration line. The line wasn’t too long. About 20 minutes later we were second in line, and suddenly the immigration officer left the station and shut down the lane. Another officer came to our line and said to find another line, so we had to get to the back of another one.

Seriously?!?

We got in another line, and this time about 10 minutes later the officer left and the line was closed as well. I’ve never seen anything like this before.

Then we got in another line and had to wait another 30 minutes.

havana-immigration

Sure enough, we arrived in the gate area at 8:45AM, at which point we found our flight was delayed — thank goodness, or else most passengers would have missed it.

However, the ground staff didn’t tell us how late the flight would be, but rather just that it would be late. They did a horrible job communicating, so we really had no clue how late our flight would be.

Terminal 2 at Havana Airport consists of one large room. There are no outlets, and in order to use the wifi you need to buy a wifi card, which the airside store sells. However, they were sold out.

havana-airport-3

While a few people had data on their phones, a vast majority of passengers didn’t, so we were completely in the dark. The airline wasn’t providing any updates, we had no way to connect to the outside world, and the ground staff didn’t provide any explanation or updates on when our flight would depart.

We had a rolling delay, so the departure time kept getting pushed back further and further, and eventually we had a 12:30PM departure.

There was no option to leave the terminal, since we had already cleared immigration.

The waiting area was nasty. We moved seats three times as cockroaches were crawling around our seats.

At around 11:15AM they told passengers booked on Southwest to come to the counter. I figured they were about to cancel the flight, but as it turns out they were handing out meal vouchers. Kudos to Southwest for at least handing those out, though we didn’t take advantage of it, as the food looked pretty bad.

havana-airport-4

Sure enough our plane arrived a bit before noon, and shortly after that we boarded. As it turns out, our flight had a mechanical problem in Tampa, so they had to swap planes, which explained the four hour delay.

By the time we boarded there was a near riot. One “Business Select” passenger flipped out because they weren’t boarding in the typical fashion, and then another lady started chewing out the flight attendant during boarding, to the point that the flight attendant said to the other one “I’m retiring after this.”

havana-airport-5

The flight to Fort Lauderdale was quick, though on arrival we had to wait another 20 minutes (or so) for a gate, but that’s not Southwest’s fault, as the international terminal at Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have enough capacity.

What is Southwest’s fault, however, is their absolutely pitiful performance start to finish in Havana. Here are Southwest’s two flights yesterday from Havana to Fort Lauderdale:

southwest-flight-status-cuba

As you can see, one was delayed by 4hr20min, while the other was delayed by 6hr14min. This is completely unacceptable. Delays can happen anytime, but I think the airline needs to understand that conditions are slightly different at Havana Airport than another airport in the US. If a flight is otherwise delayed, passengers can easily call the airline to rebook, get updated departure information, etc.

In Havana we were stuck in a disgusting room that we couldn’t leave, and there was no updated information about our flight, so we didn’t know if our delay would be 30 minutes or 30 hours.

Thank goodness we were on the earlier flight, because I can’t even imagine what it was like to have a delay of over six hours. I also don’t know what excuse Southwest possibly has for such a delay. Did both flights go mechanical?

Like I said, mechanical problems happen, but it’s the way that airlines handle them that count. The complete lack of communication and the fact that passengers were quite literally “trapped” in Havana Airport didn’t help.

There were a lot of passengers onboard who were Southwest advocates, though virtually everyone was very unhappy — “I usually love Southwest, but this was the worst flight of my life.”

Here’s to hoping flights in 2017 go more smoothly! 😉

Comments

  1. Sounds awful. While I think it would be fun to go to Cuba, the thought of potentially dealing with something like this makes me think twice about going there.

  2. Extensive delays are simply part of the Cuba travel experience at this point, in large part due to the physical limitations of the facility at HAV and, I imagine, the primitiveness of Cuban ATC. If this is your worst flight of 2016, consider yourself lucky.

  3. The Southwest “employees” in Cuba are actually Cuban Airport Authority employees who have been trained on Southwest’s systems. They have no incentive to do anything other than what is required of them as Southwest has little control over their operation there.

  4. Lucky, the last few days have been a horror for a few many Qantas passengers stranded due to fog and bad weather; in one of the best cities during New Years, on the cost of an airline, free accommodation and most likely food – Dubai. How horrible! The passengers have just been complaining that they were not able to make it back to Australia in time for NYE/D but stuck in Dubai! Not in the airport, they were fortunate enough to be able to leave the airport… how horrendous! (Laughing Emoji)

  5. Immigration lines being closed and being moved to the back of another long line is a frequent occurrence arriving into USA as a visitor (i.e. not unique to Cuba).

  6. Southwest is great until a flight gets canceled. Last Christmas I rented a car and drove overnight from Kansas to Indiana because our SW flight was canceled and they couldn’t get me out of MCI for four more days.

  7. This is 100% par for the course on flights out of T2 in Havana. I’ve flown out of there twice and both have involved hours long delays without any info provided. This flight may have been mechanical, but it’s not unusual to have a long delay for any number of reasons.

    The way to get around the line for check-in is very simple: walk up one of the agents roaming around the line, hand them $20 per person, and they’ll take your passport and handle check-in for you. Took me all of 5m on both of my flights out of HAV. The employees basically make no money so rely on tips/bribes.

    There is also a VIP lounge upstairs that is much better than sitting in the terminal (although still probably one of the worst lounges I’ve been in).

    I’m a little bit disappointed that you wrote this without providing context or having done additional research ahead of time. A rare miss!

  8. I had a delay on BA for about six hours or so because of fog in Heathrow the previous day causing our plane to get stranded in Edinburgh. Then we had to sit on the plane for another hour because it took so long to de-ice the plane. Geneva airport is too expensive and has a mess ridden departures lounge.

  9. I am an advid reader of your blog. When you announce that you planned on traveling to Cuba I kept my comments to myself. Now that I read your first post I say you deserve what you got at the airport. What happened to you is common occurrence at the airport. All the employees work for the government, they have no incentive to keep anyone happy. The rule for government employees in Cuba is to just look out for themselves, their service will depend if they had a meal prior to work or not. Many of them have very little to eat so they will only work if they get something to eat prior to their arrival at the airport. More than likely reason for them leaving their post was to get something to eat. I don’t normally say this to anyone but you got what you deserve for flying to Cuba and supporting the repressive government their quest to continue to control the poor Cuban people.

  10. I made a commitment in 2003 to never fly on Southwest again, and I’ve never had a moment’s doubt in the wisdom of my decision.

    The passengers who fly Southwest always have loud arguments for why they fly Southwest but, at the end of the day, it’s about money. They don’t have any or, if they do have it, they’re unwilling to part with it. So they’re treated like people who don’t have any.

  11. Cuba is not America. You should check out Russia, Romania and some other awful airports I’ve been unfortunate enough to be stranded in. Say, in Moscow. After spending an hour or so at a gate that took 30 minutes or so to get to, we had to change terminals and hoof it to another gate clear across the airport, and then sit there forever waiting for the plane to arrive. Or in Romania, having to bribe the gate agent to check in my suitcase (after being told I owed money because the bag was too heavy.). It wasn’t, but I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

    I love traveling; but you have to remember when you aren’t in the US or most of Western Europe, life it different. You don’t have any rights in some of these places. Just part of the experience. Actually, when I’m on my way back from some of these places, I can’t wait to leave!!! Even though I had a great time and all, there’s nothing like being back in the USA after awhile.

  12. Oh bless. No concierge meet and greet from your limousine arrival. No Pier Lounge Lunch. No shower on board.

    No wonder you are suitably traumatized dear young thing.

    I challenge you for 2017 to try SFO-KEF-XXX on WOW Air in one go to see just how bad things can get instead of constantly hawking credit cards behind pseudo-serious luxury flight trip reports.

  13. Your problems DID have to do with Cuba though, as all of the “Southwest” people in Cuba do not actually work for Southwest, as Z explained above.

  14. I’m with peachfront but it took me until RR 2.0 to stop drinking the WN Kool Aid.

    Sounds like the normal passenger experience when IRROPS happen on Southworst.

    If you fly Southworst, Frontier, Spirit or Allegiant then you should account for the much higher likelihood of a $hit experience

  15. Sorry…but anyone wanting to be on the opening frontier of visiting Cuba in these early days without proper modern infrastructure is begging for experiences such as this. If you don’t want to experience Third World travel delays and nightmares, then you either wait for better infrastructure or you don’t go. It’s that simple.

    Our author deserved this…and now is whining like a passive aggressive dolt. Come on, already.

  16. The problem with the Southwest rolling delay notwithstanding, the real issue with your bad day is the underlining fact that Cuba travel isn’t ready for prime time. The 90 minute check-in line and the Immigration line fiascos alone are draconian. Even if the flight had departed on time who wants to go through that hassle?

  17. Do you communicate your experiences to the airlines/hotels that provide bad service, or just complain about them on your blog? I recognize that complaints might not change anything, but if you don’t let them know, you’re part of the problem…

  18. Looks like everyone is hungover judging by all the cranky commenters. HAV airport is bad. It has nothing to do with it being a repressive country or with our host refusing to bribe someone. And Cuban govt employees are hardly starving. The food may not be exciting, but the days of severe food shortage have long since passed.

  19. Well to fault the airline for the condition of the Havana airport is ridiculous. You were delayed that stinks, but the airline got you from A to B and safely. I think they did their job, did it well and you will probably fly them again.

  20. Oh, how technology has spoiled us. Take someone’s phone capabilities away, then watch it all go downhill from there.
    For someone who has traveled hundred of thousands of miles, this doesn’t look like good preparation. It just sounds like whining. Sorry. I’ve been delayed on domestic flights for 4 hours before myself(American). As you stated in a response, it was ultimately a mechanical delay. Oh well. I’m afraid the dramatic criticism of the food, gate conditions and airport employees are a sample of what to expect of your visit in later blogs. That would be unfortunate. You may have traveled well sir, but not very well traveled.

  21. Why are they saying: “I’m retiring after this”.
    Not the first time some employees have used and yet it makes zero sense to use it.

  22. Ben, your post is about how it was handled, not the mechanical. Therefore, you’re complaint is with HAV and the government/contractor employing these agents. Unlike in most airports around the globe where there is a competitive landscape for ground-handling, you’re in Cuba. You can complain up the wazoo but Southwest cannot do anything about it. If they don’t like it, they can choose not to fly to Cuba. Southwest has zero leverage in this isolated case and can only apologize for/on behalf of it’s poor operation (contractors) in Cuba. Hopefully as more tourism dollars come in the government will spend wisely to upgrade the aviation conditions in Cuba.

  23. If you are truly a travel consultant and savvy traveler, it would benefit you to educate yourself about the culture, economic restrictions, and governmental regulations in Cuba before jumping on a plane and taking your American expectations to a developing country. You were fortunate to travel to Cuba. You traveled on one of the first few commercial flights from the US. As an experienced traveler you should know to expect hiccups. Your first-world expectations were showing…and it wasn’t becoming. Cut them some slack; everyone is learning how to navigate travel between two countries who have been closed to each other for 60 years. Get over yourself. Maybe you should take the charter flights out of Miami and experience real travel to Havana.
    ~Suggestions from an experienced traveler to Cuba.

  24. Ultimately this, to me, says more about the country of Cuba than anything else. This is a country that, in essence, does not understand how most of the developed world operates. I visited Cuba a few years ago (I’m sure much has changed since) on a religious visa which allowed me access to areas to which tourists are not permitted to. The people there were spoon fed information about the outside world, and could only take it as fact. An increased understanding of their culture is needed to fully understand the airport situation.

  25. “Delays can happen anytime, but I think the airline needs to understand that conditions are slightly different at Havana Airport than another airport in the US.”

    Ding ding ding, you said it yourself, except that you fail to look in the mirror. Conditions are different, operational responsibilities by the airlines in Havana are different, yet your lack of research into what you were getting yourself into clearly shows in your blog post. The ground staff you dealt with are airport, not airline employees who just happen to be trained how to operate the airline systems.

    “The waiting area was nasty. We moved seats three times as cockroaches were crawling around our seats.”

    It’s Cuba, a country without modern amenities. This comes across as incredibly whiny and shows that despite all the traveling you’ve done, you’re not very well cultured.

    Enjoy the blog, but this was a disappointing post from you to start 2017.

  26. Yeah, I’m a big advocate of WN and fly them all the time – domestically. However, when it comes to international flights, they are not ready for prime time. Flew them to San Jose, CR last year (via Hobby) and they were clearly unprepared for the manner in which flying international impacts all of your usual procedures. No, my flight was nothing like your nightmare – but it was incredibly annoying and I said I would not fly WN again to an international destination unless or until they get it together.

    Can’t say I’m surprised by your experience, given WN and given the way in which Cuba does business.

  27. You know your title states that you had the worst flight of 2016, yet nowhere in the article do you ever talk about the flight itself but instead about the airport experience. Seems to me like the actual flight was fine. Next time travel with a binky in your carryon.

  28. Havana is easily the worst airport I have ever been to in my life. Disgusting, overcrowded, no food options, no lighting, no communication, no easy way in or out. Total nightmare.

  29. @ Josh, no cranky comments from me. I do have 1st hand knowledge about food conditions in Cuba, the citizens lack the basic necessities as milk, eggs, etc, the rule of thumb for government employees is that if they get something to eat they will work, if not they will spend their entire working time finding time and place for a basic meal

  30. This is standard operating conditions for life in Cuba on a daily basis. You wanted to experience the unique nature of Communist Cuba before hoards of American tourists “spoiled it”, well now you have. This is par for the course there.

    Combine woefully inadequate infrastructure, with a beaten down people, and a government that prefers them to stay beaten down so that they are too depressed to demand to be treated as folks with any rights at all, and this is the predictable result. For the Communist government, this type of situation is not a bug, it’s a feature.

    Had to laugh about the airside store being sold out of Wi-Fi cards. They probably have been sold out for days, if not weeks or months. It was predictable that with all of these American tourists suddenly arriving the demand for the cards would skyrocket, but it was no one’s job to plan for that.

    All Communist countries have continual chronic shortages. You were lucky that here it was only Wi-Fi cards, whereas in the “Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” that’s the daily condition for everything from toilet paper to prescription drugs. But even that is better than North Korea, where in the one of the frequent “crop failures” (sic) over a Million people can starve to death in a matter of a few months.

    You were lucky to get out in a matter of a few hours. Hundreds of thousands have risked their lives in barely seaworthy boats, many dying in the attempt, trying to get escape from this “workers paradise” (sic). 🙁

  31. @ Deb, haha you really think Luckly would fly a charter flight and wait in Miami in 3 different lines just to get checked in by the charter operator or have flight departure change to be several hours later, HAHA, 🙂 🙂

  32. My worst delay was in ’95. Was flying LHE-JFK via DXB and LHR. Had checked in and was waiting in the lounge when the lights in the airport went out. Sat in a dark, crowded lounge for abou 4 hours before we were bussed to an airplane hangar. We slept on the floor using our carry ons, probably 500+ passengers going to various destinations.

    It was raining terribly and parts of he airport were flooded too. We were given no food or water and I still remember how thirsty I was.

    About 12 hours later, we boarded finally, but instead of heading to DXB LHR, we stopped in Damascus, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt first. Nobody was allowed to get off the plane at any of the stops either.

    Eventually we landed at LHR, and the airline put us up in a hotel overnight. Now that was an awful delay!

  33. Welcome to 3rd world travel Ben. No SPG Ambassador to take care of you. I lived in a third world country for 27 months and you my friend are clueless about how things are. I agree with others – your reason for visiting Cuba to ‘support the Cuban people’ is BS. OFAC is still on the books. How much of your money went to support a regime that regularly violates the human rights of its citizens. As a gay man myself I am very disappointed that you and Ford traveled to such a location when our LGBT rights here in the US are under threat come January 20.

    A few cockroaches. Big deal. If the cockroaches are walking away with your carry-on then you have a problem but a few roaming around – meh, you are in the topics. As far as the Internet – I frequently turn on my international data roaming and pay a few extra bucks to get a much needed update in case of a delay or local travel issue. Sometimes its the price of doing business in a foreign country and definitely in a third world country. I have also found other passengers, mostly European, who have full world data packages that I have asked to do an Internet search with a quick borrow of their phone. With all your travel experience I am little shocked that you could not have found someone with a European passport or a regional Caribbean passport and politely asked. I know I am little harsh but here’s hoping your 2017 reviews become a little more grounded and humble. Privilege is so 2016.

  34. Got stuck in LHR 2 days ago because of fog. Got my first flight cancelled, rebooked to a flight 3:40 hours later. This one was first announced delayed 3 hours and ended up being cancelled as well. I was in the airport for about 9 hours just to go back to the hotel then. The flight the next morning was delayed 1 hour then. Not the airline’s fault if it is foggy but a really bad experience nonetheless. I guess it was worse for all the others as I could spend the wait in the first class lounge (OW emerald status).

  35. As others have mentioned, if this is the worst delay of your life, you’ve been very fortunate. Just consider the folks flying QF2 from London via Dubai to Sydney a couple of days ago, some were delayed more than 36 hours. C’est la vie…

    Happy travels!

  36. Two questions:

    1) At some point, could you have simply bought a ticket on JetBlue and taken it up with WN after getting home?

    2) Wikipedia says Southwest operates out of Terminal 3 (along with most other international flights), not Terminal 2. Is that incorrect?

  37. I have mixed feelings about this post, Lucky. I thoroughly enjoy your blog, read it on a daily basis and really appreciate the enormous amounts of information you’re providing us. But every now and then, you’ll post articles that really make you look privileged, whiny, and uneducated, and this one falls into this category for sure.

    You should expect slightly different conditions when you are in a 3rd world country. Let alone the fact that they have just started being flooded by American tourists, without any time or money to prepare the infrastructure for that. So yea they have a crappy airport, there are roaches, and so forth (I have seen roaches in EWR on more than one occasion, FYI, but you would have to be outside a lounge to witness that). And the wifi cards they sell were probably sold out a LONG time ago, since the supply chain is probably not quite there either.

    Those airports workers probably barely make enough money to live, so they most likely stick to their primary job which is docking the plane, boarding people, and closing the door.

    Now, the delay was definitely Southwest’s fault, and they should somehow have a way to communicate to their passengers about the delays. But even in the US, it’s not uncommon to have rolling delays and no one able to give one bit of reliable information.

    Next time you travel in a less developed country, prepare for it and for the fact that conditions may be a little more rough. If it’s not your thing, don’t go there. It’s part of the experience, embrace it, as frustrating as it can be. There can’t be a ritzy airline lounge or someone to put your shoes in a shoe bag as soon as you sit everywhere you go. Sorry for being harsh!

  38. MSY is a focus city for WN, so I fly them a lot. I flew WN internationally three times this year: BZE, MEX, and CUN. I had a great experience on each flight. On my MSY-HOU-MEX flight, the MSY-HOU flight was delayed, and the staff moved us onto an earlier MSY-HOU flight (both were delayed due to bad weather in Houston) so that we made our connection. That kind of thing isn’t easy for a Southwest gate agent, as they have bad IT and run the international flights on a separate ticketing system. But it was indeed done, and the service I got was excellent.

    The only other time in 2016 that I had to deal with WN IRROPS was a MDW-MSY flight that was the last one of the day that got canceled because of weather. A WN agent on the phone quickly got us rebooked on a flight the next morning with no problem.

  39. I didn’t read all the post, but I say don’t visit Cuba quite yet, I have never had a problem with southwest, but things in life do cause delays and other things that’s why you always need a plan B

  40. So much hatred coming from keyboard warriors sitting in their trailer parks with buckets of food stuff from their local… whatever and access to internet – that’s a dangerous situation.

  41. Thanks for the informative trip report Lucky. I am sure many will find this post helpful. I did not find Lucky was being whiny or acting like a privileged dick. Lots of nasty, jealous loser haters in the comments section. And i laugh at Americans who accuse other countries of human rights abuses. Your government (from both major parties ) is not great either in this area. No wonder the US government and some Americans are hated by many countries around the world.

  42. Sounds like 3rd world country luck.

    Aren’t you glad you live in America and the airports are wonderful.

    Guess you have a new appreciation for that US Airport outlets/WiFi.

    Do still need some cheese with your wine! 😉 I have plenty in Wisconsin for you!

    Sign me,

    Stacy Lea

  43. This kind of rolling, no-information delay is normal procedure at Southwest. They’ll just keep bumping the announced departure time back in half hour increments until their plane (hopefully) arrives, whether it’s a 30 minute delay or a 5 hour delay. I too understand when planes go mechanical, but when I can more effectively predict my departure time via FlightRadar24 that’s pretty pathetic and evil to customers. Especially since if you want a decent seat you have to hang around the gate.

    After many delays handled like this last year I swore off Southwest forever. I don’t care if a real airline is ten times as expensive, they’re a horribly run company that I won’t support.

  44. Sorry for your experience Lucky. Thank you for the trip report. I’m no fan of Southwest. Delays happen but, I gave up on Southwest because any “bump in the road” in their operation creates travel chaos. As an organization from top to bottom they are inflexible and outside of catchy commercials communicating with customers ain’t happening. Lucky you taught us that Southwest + Cuba = Instant Nightmare.

  45. I always find it “funny” when US citzens complain about immigration lines in other countries. If I add it up correctly, it took you 60 mins to get through. At IAD or JFKT4 this would easily cut my personal record by more than half … Lol

    (I know that Global Entry reduces the waiting time significantly, but like most of this planet’s inhabitants I’m not eligible to this treat)

  46. I’ve had similar experiences with immigration lines in US airports, including LAX, HNL and EWR. I’ve had a worse experience at LHR. But if it’s the officer’s time to go on a break, who can blame them. They’re there to check documents, they aren’t there to manage queues. You can’t work on an empty stomach. Americans have very high expectations when it comes to service. Whenever I see a tripadvisor review complaining about bad service, typically the reviewer’s home town is in the US. These reviews can generally be ignored as they are applying different standards to what the rest of the world expects. Also, the overzealous service you get in US restaurants as a result of that extreme service culture can be very annoying for foreigners. I don’t need to be proactively offered bread. If I want some, I’ll ask.

  47. Ha ha ha ha …. Told ya so!!!

    Now you know what my experience was like three weeks ago….even though you are blaming SWA.

    “Havana Airport is a disater” AeroMex captain announces over the planes intercom. WELCOME TO CUBA!

  48. As a visitor to Cuba a few years ago, I am not surprised by the problems you had, or the quality of the airport facilities you observed. I think what I am surprised about is your apparent naivité about those conditions as a seasoned traveller who usually does their research.

    To the commie haters – remember the flipside. It was the USA that imposed the trade embargo that knee-capped Cuba for the last 50 years, and it was the USA that encouraged corrupt politicians and mobsters to run the country before they adopted Castro and his version of communism.

    I look forward to your trip reports, as I hope you too were affected by the amazing resilience, joie de vivre, beauty and sense of community that infuses the communities of Cuba. Not to mention the oddity of no public commercial advertising. No ads for cars, or soda, or beer, or fast food. It reminded me of some of the good things from the past.

  49. At risk of sounding mean-spirited, when you said you were going to Cuba, most of your readers (who rely on some information you post but don’t really like you and find posts like this embarrassing and cringe worthy) probably secretly wanted this to happen.

    What an unbelievable whinge!

    Also, I have never seen cockroaches in Havana airport, although I have in a few airports in the tropics. Don’t they typically stick to quieter corners and stay out of the way of movement and noise? Are you sure you saw them? In the middle of a busy terminal building?

    You should have gotten yourself lounge access (you must have researched this) and then at least had internet access so you could live blog this incredible moan.

    As for employees knocking off when their time is up… see other readers’ comments on how this happens in many places.

    So eager to know how you found the rest of Cuba. We might be laughing, and I suspect not with you!

  50. It happens everywhere. If one is lucky to have lounge access then you sweat it out in comfort. If you don’t then too bad. My delays have all been at places where it is comfortable. Singapore, London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Dallas so no real pain but just inconvenience. Cest la vie

  51. Unpleasant. But not necessarily third world. This is kind of what I expect as experience in US airports. Anything better than that I consider a bonus. My last LAX experience was pretty good I have to say, but don’t even begin about JFK or MIA. US Airlines, US Airports and uniformed staff seem to bring out the worst in each other.

  52. My worst delay was 20 years ago, with Garuda. Spent three days waiting for a flight out after landing in Jakarta. Which was maybe not surprising, since the plane was supposed to land in Bangkok.

  53. Lucky, I’ll quote from your blog first: “Then we had to wait in the immigration line. The line wasn’t too long. About 20 minutes later we were second in line, and suddenly the immigration officer left the station and shut down the lane. Another officer came to our line and said to find another line, so we had to get to the back of another one.

    Seriously?!?”

    You’ve just described the 5 times I’ve flown into the USA over the last 9 years when flying into LAX, JFK and EWR.

  54. Kudos to Melisa, yes, that’s why trump won.

    He will also build a wall between the US and Cuba.

  55. Next time you people who live on the East coast, West coast, and Illinois remember this article. Communism / Socialism sucks. Period Dot.

  56. Welcome to that 3rd world shit hole known as Cuba! Luckily, this post went viral and Trump has now promised to build a Yuge, Beautiful wall around Cuba to keep Americans from flying Southwest, having to wait in line with the cockroaches, and having to deal with the efficient and lovable Cuban airport “workers”…

  57. @Jo145

    Same ‘third world’ experience I usually have in the US, with LAX being a surprisingly positive exception last time around.

  58. Thanks for the information. I enjoy reading your blog. I enjoy hearing about your experiences. What I find disappointing is some of the negative comments being shared. Maybe because I have cancer…..my time is limited and I try to appreciate what information you have provided. I am trying to do as much traveling as I can before my days are up. From what you have shared I might not travel to Cuba or if I do then I shall reset my expectations. But you share this information for free..yet some people feel the need to say negative things. Geez people if you don’t have anything nice or constructive to say then don’t! I hate when people go on a public site and name call and insult.

  59. THANK YOU for telling me about the Havana airport. I had been flirting with the idea of visiting for a romantic getaway but I thought it was more of a vacation destination than a third-world country destination. Boy was I wrong!

    @Clem – Lucky is a seasoned traveler and understands the powerlessness passengers feel when they’re kept in the dark. He echoes my own sentiments about feeling trapped without internet and no alternatives.

    @Robert – LOL – yep, he definitely should consider himself “Lucky”!

  60. To Peachfront, and everyone else less than enthusiastic over Southwest: I am among those who are almost totally dependent on Southwest. They are not just an alternative. Eighty-five percent of all flights from Albuquerque airport (which serves Santa Fe also) are on Southwest. Yes, I love the no baggage fee and no change fee — those make sense to me.
    However, WN long ago stopped being low-cost or a bargain or just inexpensive. They have a lot of drawbacks including no real connecting, through flights with foreign carriers. They cancel service and ALL service is gone. e.g. their once or twice a day $109. flights to El Paso are now extinct. To fly to El Paso currently requires a change of planes in Phoenix/AA -$450rt. Houston UA/$650rt, or Atlanta DL/$850rt. So, a lot of old abuelitas and wobbly tios are enduring 6 hour bus rides to the border. Southwest fares (including senior fares) are far from a bargain, but they are about all we have when we have that.
    Southwest lowballed Frontier out of town, then eliminated half their flights to Denver and they now share the route with United at a higher fare.
    Southwest is a whole separate world for pricing and booking, which must be done only with their system. My next international flight in February will require going on Southwest to get to a BA departure in Phoenix. Even American does not coordinate their flight with BA. (Btw, I did not choose that BA departure, it chose me.)
    Yes, I love the Most Imperial Regal Glossy Grander-than-Aspiration Lounge when I sit in one. But those matter less all the time (and are more crowded too.) Avoiding oppressive too small seats jammed into too small spaces with every seat filled matters a lot more. I’m interested in less misery, not more luxury.

  61. Lucky,
    Do you and other bloggers not realize that Cuba, China, Russia are Communist
    countries?
    You mentioned cockroaches in your article. To the communist leaders in all these
    countries….you are the cockroaches.
    The leaders live a capitalistic life and the peons in the country must obey.
    All the travel bloggers write dreamily about going to these countries but Western
    travelers are forced to pay outrageous prices compared to even 2nd world
    nations in Europe.
    All these problems on your flight are not Southwest’ fault. They are having to work in an environment where they may not even have hot water or even decent food. Look how people are living 50 kilometers outside of Moscow or Havana or dare to look at how the cockroaches are living in North Korea. People are trying to put food in their
    mouth so those rich Americans can afford to pay big time to see some sideshow
    garbage in these countries. Keep spending the money and the dictator leaders will
    continue to have the good life. Thank you, America.

  62. I liked your post and I found your review well placed. Some of the comments above scare me more than Cuba. Did @StevenKapellas really make this an election LGBT issue? Yikes.

    Nevertheless, when you buy a ticket from WN, you have certain expectations. WN shouldn’t fly there until standards are upgraded (or until there are actual standards). Welcome to capitalism, Cuba. Improve or don’t get the money. I believe it is neither ethical nor practical to advocate bribing customs officials. That person might be right, but they are part of the problem, not the solution.

  63. Yes, Havana’s airport is an absolute nightmare. Yes, it is a nightmare because it is runned by the Cuban government. Because of this, the airport issue won’t be fixed anytime soon. Two weeks ago I was talking to every official I could find in the Havana airport, saying to them “do you realize what a mess you have here?” The response was like, “I don’t give a darn.” Oddly, the Cuban’s have hired a French contractor from DeGaule International. Yet, BECAUSE the Cuban government manages the contractor, Havana Airport will stay a disaster for awhile. I have been to a majority of Latin American airports, and there is absolutely no comparison to how bad Havana is. If someone wants to go to Cuba, just take a carry on bag AND fly into one of the many other airports there like Santiago or Santa Clara. Havana isn’t the only airport in Cuba!

  64. @Kelly s — would you seriously consider not going to Cuba because your flight might be delayed and one particular airline might not be comfortable? If so, oh well, your loss. Careful not to travel anywhere else either in case the flight is delayed and the airport is a bit uncomfortable.

    But in fact Havana airport isn’t especially bad. I found Lucky’s report wildly exaggerated compared to any experience I’ve had at HAV and in addition it is definitely not a worse experience than some US airports as many have commented. Also, you don’t need to bribe anyone there.

    But the main point is here… do you travel to go to the airport? I often get the impression that Lucky does, that shouldn’t surprise us. But seriously, the rest of you?

  65. I hope you loved the real Cuban people as much as I did when I visited in 1992. They had absolutely nothing but were so kind and friendly. Sorry about the flight; I imagine it will take Cuba and the SWA-trained staff awhile to catch up with the more modern world. In 1992 nothing had changed since the 60’s. And the terminal only offered cow-hoof soup (extra $ for the hoof!)

  66. Sadly I had much worse treatment from AA flying JFK to LHR. Last flight of the day, boarded after a 30 min delay. Meal orders etc taken then told mech issue. After 30 min told plane change. Went to New gate, captain went ahead then still no boarding an hour later. Then started rolling delays in 2h chunks with pretty much zero info. Overnight so nothing open in the terminal. Ended up leaving 11h later – atrocious level of support and info from AA. If they’d just said up front it was cancelled until the morning we could have gone to a hotel.

  67. @twoclicks re Kelly

    She mentioned that she has cancer, there might be other things she hasn’t said (and why should she) that make delays a much bigger deal than being late for breakfast.

  68. Lucky, sounds more of a Cuba problem over the airline problem. If the flight is on time and they take off on time without u, will u direct the anger at HAV airport system instead?

    And im surprised by ur lack of data – thought u should have bought it.

  69. I had a similar terrible experience recently going from Baltimore to Fort Myers Florida. We waited in line to board for two hours before we were told of a delay. Then when a passenger asked what was going on, we were told they were waiting for a wheelchair to take off a special needs passenger….then another hour and another wheelchair, then one more hour for another wheelchair to take off the third and last special needs passenger,. To me waiting in line for four hours was frustrating…But it is absolutely appalling to have the special needs passengers stuck on that plane for so long. That last special needs passenger had to wait THREE hours on the plane to get off. Needless to say I stopped flying southwest.

  70. We had an almost identical flying out of Havana back in March.

    Since we were flying on a charter and commercial flights hadn’t even started yet, I don’t think you had a Southwest problem but more a Cuba problem. See the similarities.

    1) We arrived 2 hours before our flight but were not allowed into the airport terminal by the gatekeeper. Our tour guide was shocked as this never happened before but she was told it was “new rule”.

    2) When inside, the line to check in wasn’t very long but still took 30 min. While in line the group behind us with a rolling cart full of sculpture was approached by a man while on line and told “you will have to pay export on items, for $40 I can get you checked in right now”. They did, were walked up to the side of the counter and given boarding passes and bags checked

    3) Our guide set up VIP service for us. After checking in for the flight, we met a man who walked us to the end of the immigration queue. We stood for 5 min but then were walked up to the booth and that was it.

    4) Our VIP service also included admission to the lounge on the second floor. Besides having chairs, TV and beer, liquor and sodas it wasn’t anywhere I’d like to spend time. I wouldn’t touch the food. We did end up spending much time there because………

    5) Our charter (on Eastern) was delayed as well. There were no airline reps to be found. The airport staff didn’t know anything. When we were 1 hour past departure time and the time for the flight hadn’t been updated yet we were really worried the flight was cancelled and we’d have no way to know. Eventually, 2 hours late, we saw the plane arrive. It wasn’t even on the airport terminals anymore. It took them almost another 2 hours to turn the plane for departure. We were really hungry but decided to wait until we got back to Miami to stop at Publix for a sub and some chicken.

  71. You had a totally different experience from me. We were in Cuba from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1. 4 days in Havana and 1 in Santa Clara. Due to when we got our tickets we could only fly to Havana and it was about $100 each way on Silver Airways and we took a private driver from Santa Clara to Havana. That was very eye opening. We stayed in an AirBnB in Verado close to Hotel Presindte. I found everyone in Cuba to be great. We are ready to back anytime. I hate that USA people act so bad in Cuba.

  72. So many haters I see in comments, almost everyone is trying to be a smart ass toward the blogger…. then what did you loose here people if so unhappy???? anyways, thank you for report, looking forward to my trip to Cuba in September… 1 bad thing already happened though, Spirit canceled their flights (we were using miles) , so for onward flight we have to come up with something else…. maybe even Southwest…

  73. @peachfront,

    I’m not typically about arguing in the comments, but yours makes unfair assumptions.

    I fly SW because I live in a majority-SW city. In my personal experience, they have always gone above and beyond any other airline to help in any situations when I have a problem. They smile because they act like they love their jobs – unlike an American flight attendant on my last flight who never cracked a smile and spoke in an incredibly condescending way to every passenger he was forced to speak to.

    I had Delta status for year prior to SW, and while the very occasional upgrade wasn’t worth it, the lack of flexibility was not conducive to my travel style.

    SW made it possible for my wife and I to have a bearable long distance relationship because of the ease and affordability of changing flights.

    I don’t drink the Koop Aid – I simply choose what works for us. For me, it is a joy to fly SW. Alaska is the only Airine like more. It isn’t a financial choice (not many)…it’s a choice for he best overall experience. So don’t make assumptions otherwise. Some of the most successful business people I know ride SW.

    As for this experience, it’s very unfortunate, and I totally get the frustration. I have a feeling a quick tweet to SW would result in due compensation.

  74. Wow, I feel like you were right there with the 175 stranded in Havana by Southwest August 19-20. Yes, it was not just one day-we were stranded for 22 hours. When you wondered how awful it would be if the second flight of the day got cancelled, we lived it. Our story is at http://www.dontflysouthwest.net.

    And, I can add, to the people who want to lay the blame on Cuba’s dreadful infrastructure or work ethic, they miss the point of your post.

    The reason for the majority of inconvenience to passengers was not the maintenance issue which started the chain of events. It was not the fact that Cuba is broken and nothing works, including the airport. The point is that airlines are well aware of those issues, and have to plan accordingly if they intend to be an international airline. United has done that in Havana, Southwest has not.

    True, all airlines operate without permanent local employees due to Cuba’s clueless government policies. But United knows that you shouldn’t operate in a place you can’t control the customer experience and provide decent communication, mature judgment, and enough authority to make simple decisions to help customers deal with whatever has arisen.

    So United flies an employee to Havana every day on the first flight in, and flies them out on the last flight out. What happened to you, including a total lack of communication, would never happen with United in Havana. And that’s the point.

    For those that don’t want to click over to our site, here are the main points that reinforce the same point you are making: a broken AC prompted the SWA pilot to deboard our plane more than 45 minutes after we boarded when temperatures in the plane had soared to 105 degrees, and he blamed “Cuban Immigration” for deboarding us “because they are concerned about the lack of AC”. (I guess those would be the only people in the Cuban government that care about AC for sure).

    Once we went back into the terminal, our SWA crew disappeared (turned out they went to the Premiere Lounge mentioned above, which the rest of us were not allowed to enter). We waited more than two hours to hear even the first PA announcement from SWA. The single SWA contractor in the boarding area knew absolutely nothing and had zero communication ability or interest, and disappeared behind customs as soon as she could.

    A SWA passenger from our flight asked for water to be provided to the parched passengers five hours after we were de boarded and was told they would not do this despite the fact that most people had changed back their money outside customs hours before and could not purchase water. It was not until he was literally detained by Cuban security man that water (video is on our site) was finally provided.

    The second time we were addressed on the PA was to tell us we would be put on the next plane out, but am hour later they changed their mind and we all watched as instead they evacuated our crew, stranding us for the night (Video on our site).

    Even though our flight was cancelled at 6pm, no announcement was made concerning overnight accommodations until 10pm, assuring us of a unnecessarily short sleepless night in the hotel they had known for hours they would put us up in. The next morning the bus was 45 minutes late to pick us up, and the plane to take us back to FLL was more than three hours late, again due to maintenance that presumably could have been identified or fixed the evening before. And again, zero communication from the listless and incompetent local contractors wearing SWA badges.

    Plenty of other elements of our experience provided a mutual ride of additional evidence at Southwest’s complete inability to provide safe and competent international service.

    And like you, I love Southwest domestically and rarely have bad experiences. Of all airlines, Southwest is simply excellent at turning bad situations into bearable ones precisely because of their excellent communication So it is very sad for me to see not only that they are not making any attempt to provide good customer service for their international routes, but that this problem has been known at least since last January, when the same thing happened to you. And, having taken this to the top of customer service, I can tell you they are in denial about it.

  75. SWA may not be experts with international travel, but YOU are missing the point if you think that was the REAL reason Havana Airport is a nightmare. Read the rest of the posts for examples.

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