Travel Tips

Cuba Confusion and Peter’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Flight to China

Locations in this article:  Havana, Cuba Shanghai, China

Cuban moneyThere’s been a lot of confusion over Cuba recently with the new administration’s announcement that they’re relaxing rules about people going down there.

That has to do with Cuban-Americans traveling and spending money there, but there has not been a lifting of the ban on travel to Cuba for most Americans.

However, travel agencies have been flooded with requests from people who think they can suddenly go now, but the answer is officially you can’t.

Although right now, there are about 2,000 American tourists are in Havana.

How did they get there?

Well they violated at least the spirit if not the letter of the law. It’s called the “Trading with the Enemies Act.” It was actually enacted over 45 years ago, in 1963 to be exact.

Basically what the law says is it isn’t illegal to go to Cuba; it is illegal for you to spend U.S. dollars there.  So all those people who are visiting Havana now, how’d they get there? Through any one of five other regions—Canada, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, or the Bahamas—where they bought all-inclusive travel deals in those other countries, spending their money in those other countries.

Havana CubaSo officially they never spent dollars in Cuba, and they’re all there having fun.

I’m not going to suggest that you violate either the spirit or the letter of the law; I’m just letting you know that people are doing it.

In other news, in another disconcerting attempt to raise money by tacking on fees, Delta Air Lines announcing they are going to charge $50 for checking a second bag if you’re flying international. And they actually think it will generate more than $100 million annually in revenue. And you know what? They’re probably right.

When you go overseas, you know what I say, domestically there are only two kinds of airline bags—carry on and lost. But overseas, you have to check bags. And they know it too. We’re not really happy with that.

Speaking of that, I want to share with you about my flight to Shanghai. I was flying from United States to Shanghai on United Airlines and first off, the plane was five-and-a-half hours late.

The reason was that the first plane apparently broke and they couldn’t find a second plane, but no one really told us anything. Airlines never do—information for them is sort of like counter to the actual flow of basic common sense.

When they actually brought the second plane to the gate, it was a plane they pulled out of a hangar and I don’t think they had used it since Amelia Earhart’s days. They hadn’t cleaned the plane—so that was another hour.

United Airlines Boeing 747And then, here’s the fun part … I’m boarding the plane and as I’m going down the jetway, there’s a guy at the end handing out pieces of paper. Now, I think he’s handing out the customs and immigrations forms so I take one but you know what it is? It’s a badly Xeroxed letter saying, “We’re sorry for the delay, please fill out this form and we’ll send you a certificate.”

A certificate for what? Suitable for framing? Certifying that my plane was delayed? Or a certificate giving me a 500-mile bonus on miles I can’t redeem anyway?

But wait, there’s more! I get on this old 747 plane—now, I don’t have a problem with age, I have a problem with maintenance and care. The interior of this plane was frayed seats, falling-apart fabric, stained and sticky tray tables, and the white interior of the plane was so old it had yellowed and cracked.

The good news is I landed safely in Shanghai so something went right.

But on my return flight, I had done my homework to find out about the power outlets on the plane, as I like to work on my computer on long flights. I bought the adapter, only to find out that the outlet didn’t work. I was on a 13-hour flight, no power, and the only movie they had available was Australia—do you know how bad that movie was? Then on my connecting flight to Washington, DC, the new Airbus A320’s outlets didn’t work either.

So you know what? I cannot wait for my certificate to come in the mail. I’m going to the picture framer now.

By Peter Greenberg from Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio.

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