It was 1979 and we were hijacked. On a flight from Miami to, what turned out to be, Cuba. Not Havana (because let’s face it, who wants to be in Havana in July) but Varadero. A place I had never heard of before, but in July I can think of no where nicer. Except maybe Venice. But definitely not Havana.
The pilot announced his apologies “On behalf of Eastern Airlines” for the diversion and hoped it wouldn’t ruin the in-flight experience for us as the cabin crew proceeded to placate us with an endless supply of free macadamia nuts and cola, heretofore available only to First and Business passengers in the Boeing 727. I presumed they were entering into the spirit of the occasion and embracing our hijacker’s socialist ideals.
As for the persons responsible for this about turn in our fortunes, not a sight could be seen.
Nothing changed inside the cabin – we sat in the same seats, the water below us remained the same azure blue as before and the three rear mounted engines purred like a kitten might if it were hurtling ninety seven human beings through the sky.
Silence and the occasional yell of ‘snap’ from the rear of the cabin as a rowdy group partook in a game of cards. That will be knocked on the head when we reach land, no mistake senor comrade.
Thoughts of endless cigars and Hemingway workshops fill our heads as the left wing banked gently and pressure built in the ears. Either we were descending or had all developed a sudden allergic reaction to vast quantities of salted macadamia nuts consumed over a short period of time. Well, they were free and delicious to boot – who could blame the madness in our time of need. Plus they came in such tiny packets it was hard to tell how many you had actually eaten.
Touchdown. A bevy of nothing surrounded the taxi-ing aircraft – not even a ‘Bienvenidos a Cuba’ from the flight deck. First impressions are lasting and quite frankly the hijackers’ left a lot to be desired. What was the local time and temperature, where would one go for connecting to onward destinations? Car hire, local hotels and had our luggage been checked all the way through? Nothing.
So much for the Latin passion for life.
We vowed there and then to never fly with that airline again.
Although, it had to be admitted, their nonstop service to Varadero in July was quite handy.