Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Antigua Airport

Up at six am for the flight to Antigua. At least this was the last time for a while that I’d need to get up that early. $10 two minute taxi to the airport. Liat flight on time. Seats for thirty, and all filled up, even in this low season. A wonder what monopolies can achieve.
Soon over the gently rolling island, beautifully indented coast of Antigua. From the air it looked like the fancy country club gentility that I had kind of expected on St Martin. I had ’done’ Antigua in 1982, and I preferred to remember it with the lazy, slapdash St Kitts vibe it had back then. The kind of place with an overgrown town park where two idiotic schoolgirls passed their time sticking sticks into a hornet’s nest.
We landed, I retrieved my bag, and headed over to the WinnAir counter for the flight to Montserrat.
Hmmm, nobody there. I asked around and was directed to a girl who worked for WinnAir. She said, we don’t start check in until after one. I said, my flight is at noon. She said, we don’t have that flight. I said, but you sold it to me on your website. See, here’s the printout. She said, but we don’t have that flight.
It turned out that they had re-booked me for the 3:15 flight. Without notifying me through email or any other way. Not only that, but now I was scheduled to come back from Montserrat at seven in the morning on Monday. But my connecting flight to Guadeloupe didn’t leave until five in the evening.
Not only that, but I had arranged to stay with this lady in Guadeloupe. But I had kept emailing her before I left trying to confirm everything. And she had never responded. Until yesterday when she wrote and said, gee, it had been so hot that she had up and booked a flight to Montreal. Sorry.
And Guadeloupe is probably the most expensive island in this most expensive of seas.
So I found my way to the ’office’ of WinnAir, where the manager lady was actually apologetic about the incompetence of her airline. And she could rebook my return flight on Wednesday.
Because that was the next available Guadeloupe flight on Liat. Which they then changed for me at the cost of $60. (The original flight, about 30 miles, had been $100.) Now I had an extra two days on Montserrat, and only two days to fill in Guadeloupe.
But for now here I was stuck at the airport for the next six hours or so. And everything about Antigua was exceedingly upscale, except for this 1960s un-air conditioned airport with nothing to do and nowhere to sit.
Okay, there was one tiny restaurant upstairs, where I had a colossally overpriced short stack of pancakes. And sat and sat in the booth and played with the wifi.
At around one-thirty I went over to the WinnAir counter and checked in. She said that boarding was at four-thirty. I said, but the flight was for 3:15. She shrugged her shoulders.
It was really hot and sticky. A taxi into town would have been $30. But I was really getting antsy, so I decided to at least walk out of the airport and to the main road.
The airport itself may have been total crap, but the landscaping around it was just fabulous. Every kind of exotic fancy palm tree imaginable. And right at the airport entrance was this giant neo-classical/country club type bank building. I looked at its name: Stanford International. As in Allen Stanford. The $10 billion Ponzi scheme guy who had just been nailed a few weeks earlier.
And there across the street, with ornate columns and all, was the Stanford Cricket Field. And next to that was the Stanford-owned Antigua National Bank. Where all those Antiguans had lined up a few weeks ago trying to get out their non-existent deposits.
Standing there in the hot sun, it was hard to know whether one was supposed to laugh or cry. This guy had been more moronic than those girls with the hornet’s nest, but the world had gladly ponied up $10 billion for him.
I walked into The Sticky Wicket, a shrine to cricket cum bar and restaurant fronting the cricket pitch. A hamburger cost $18. The receptionist was taking down reservations. Looked like the Stanford empire was continuing apace.
You can’t make this stuff up. Oh yeah, you can. And he did.
Back to the airport. Through security. Nothing to eat except some overpriced cookies. Finally we boarded the small plane. Twenty passengers squeezed into about a quarter of the space of the Liat plane. At 5:10 we finally took off, buffeted around in the air over the deep blue sea.


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