La Habana

Havana is an interesting and eclectic mix that is difficult to take in and hard to understand. From a purely touristic point of view I can see that the city and country might have something to offer. Havana boasts a lot of very beautiful and old colonial architecture, with grand old buildings and elegant, imposing boulevards.

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Parts of the city have been beautifully restored to their former splendour, while in other quarters old and dilapidated buildings with trees growing through the floors and on the verge of collapse dominate the face of the city. And although that may not necessarily sound too appealing, strangely enough these buildings exude a charm of their own.

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But there are also a few down sides. The country is very poor and the local population really have next to nothing at all. The upshot of this is that literally everybody in this city is on the make and as a foreigner you are basically treated as nothing more than a walking bank. Everybody you meet will try to sell you some old useless crap. They’re not pushy but if you decline to buy, they will come right out with it and ask you if you have some money for them. I guess there’s nothing wrong with begging but somehow it comes across as rather undignified and leaves behind a rather unpleasant sense of desperation.

I’m not saying that the Western system we call capitalism is better or even good. But it seems to me that in Cuba’s interpretation of socialism, everyone is equal and in that everyone is equally badly off. The government’s propaganda follows you everywhere you go in Cuba and you cannot help but feel that its sole purpose is to justify the hardship the population is suffering. But surely, there has to be another way. Thus, it is my personal view that the Cuban government has failed its own people. The only thing that seems to work in the country is the healthcare system.

If socialism means living in squalor, in buildings on the verge of dilapidation and collapse, abject poverty and without the freedom to say that one plus one is two – because you know it and not because you’re told so – then basically the only conclusion I can draw is that socialism has failed. And Cuba is a sad demonstration of just that.

Aeromexico, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Mexico City to La Habana

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Date: 07 May 2017
Departure: 10:40
Arrival: 13:50
Flight time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Seat: 1A, window

Introduction

Mexico City airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 is the old grotty place that is used by all airlines with the exception of Aeromexico. Terminal 1 is old and there is hardly enough space for all the passengers, given that the major European carriers all operate to Mexico City using B 747s and even the A 380.

Terminal 2 is a much nicer getup and reserved exclusively for use by Aeromexico. The design of the building is really cool, with very high ceilings and a lot of space for passengers to move around. The NH Collection Hotel is located on the sixth floor of Terminal 2 and from the rooms you have some excellent views of the arriving and departing traffic. Terminals 1 and 2 are connected by the Aertrain, which runs on some days but not on others.

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Check-in

In Terminal 2 Aeromexico has a dedicated set of counters for SkyTeam priority passengers and there are many counters open. Check-in is swift and there is even a dedicated lane for security for priority passengers. There is no immigration as such, however, as you board the aircraft the gate agent will collect the embarkation card you completed before entering Mexico. And if you no longer have the card, expect to pay a hefty fine.

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The Lounge

The lounge is located right above the security checkpoint. It’s a fairly small place for the amount of passengers it serves and there are only few places left to sit when I get there. What I like about the lounge is that there are waiters on duty that will bring you drinks and from which you can order food. The wifi also works very well inside the lounge.

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Boarding

Boarding in Mexico City is by zones and priority passengers are invited to queue in zone 1, which is boarded first. As I head down the ramp into the airbridge I even manage to take a picture of my chariot today!

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The Cabin

The aircraft operating the flight today must be fairly new. For one, as I step aboard I notice it has the new sky interior with the type of luggage bins that folds down to open. I don’t know how much more capacity these bins have, but the cabin certainly looks and feels a lot more spacious and roomy, which I have always found the B 737’s weak point when compared to the wider A 320 family. I know the A 320 cabin is only 19 cm wider than that of the B 737, but I think you do notice the difference.

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The seat is very comfortable and looks very similar to the ones Garuda and Malaysian have on their B 737s. There are four seats abreast in Business Class and there are four rows in the premium cabin, although only eight of 16 seats are occupied on today’s flight. Other than that, the seat has power ports and video screens. Earphones are distributed at the beginning of the flight.

The Crew

There is one young lady working the Business Class cabin, who seems rather serious to begin with. However, later on during the flight her interaction with the passengers is friendly and very helpful.

The service starts on the ground with a welcome drink. There is a choice of water or orange juice. They also distribute these small earplugs for the IFE.

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The Meal

Uhm, yeah. About that. The meal is really quite disgusting. I’m not even sure if it was intended to be a late breakfast or brunch, or something else. Or a randomly put together tray of inedible stuff. It consists of a warm croissant served with melted cheese and a ‘meat item…’ and mustard. In addition, there is a large green salad with a balsamic dressing and a pre-packaged tub of milk rice. Still, at least the warm nuts they serve before the meal are okay.

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And it’s really bad. The croissant is so greasy you can see the oil oozing out of it when you press gently on the top of it and the milk rice has the most artificial flavour I’ve ever come across and which, upon further inspection, turns out to be cinnamon. You could have fooled me I’m telling you!

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Arrival

The approach into Cuba is rather nice, as you fly along the coast until you hit the airport. Immigration in Cuba however is not so nice. When I arrive the place is crawling with people and the queues are only moving very slowly.

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When eventually I reach the head of the queue, that’s when the problems start. First of all, the immigration officers find it strange that my nationality is not identical with my place of residence. Once that’s dealt with they have a problem matching the photo they take of me with the one they scan off my passport. So eventually, it takes me close to two hours to enter the country.