Visiting Cuba / Trustan de Cunha / New Airport “Chat Down” Security Measures

For decades, Americans have been restricted from visiting Cuba, although if you want to travel to this country – less than 100 miles from the US and almost close enough to swim! – travel restrictions have just been eased. However, if you are a US citizen, you still cannot visit as a tourist, and you have to be visiting for educational, cultural or religious reasons, which seems to me a bit vague. If you go, you will have to participate in some pre-planned activities and there are various activities that you are not allowed to do. (It is also prohibited to smoke a Cuban cigar that is longer than you are tall) As of now, the cost alone is still enough to put most potential visitors off, as a weekend break will cost around $1800. Apparently, there are now about 300 flights a month from Florida to Cuba, so demand seems to be high. Key West, Florida is the latest city to receive permission to offer flights to Cuba, making it quicker to fly there than drive to Miami. I would like to go to Cuba, as I am always fascinated by destinations which are remote or mysterious.

If you want to visit somewhere really remote, the tiny island of Tristan de Cunha, located in the S Atlantic Ocean and home to 262 British citizens is the ultimate remote destination. I suppose you can count them all, when there are so few people. The island has no airport and the only way to visit is by ship, although I would perhaps be reluctant to go there in case the shipping schedules meant that I was there for weeks or even months. The island’s official website lists the shipping schedule from Capetown, South Africa, a journey that takes about a week. But what exactly is there to do there? Apparently, there is fishing, walking, a wild bird sanctuary and one golf course, which it must be really easy to book a tee time for. When I worked for an airline, I occasionally had callers who would want to fly to remote or unusual places (Easter Island, Bhutan, Alice Springs) which was always something of a challenge trying to get them there, especially as many flights only operated once or a couple of times a week.

Here’s another story about airport security measures, this one detailing new TSA measures which mean that passengers will be asked even more questions about their trip and the reasons for it. Inevitably, this has become known as a chat down, instead of a pat down. The Israeli airline El Al has been doing this for many years and when I flew the airline around 25 years ago, I had to answer quite a lot of questions, a process which took almost an hour. Someone from the airline even called my work place to make sure that I actually worked where I said I did. I think they probably wondered why I was flying on El Al from London to New York and not on a US or UK airline, and the simple answer was that theirs was the cheapest ticket I could find. That was before the days of the Internet, when people would actually walk into a travel agent and talk to someone!

Guest entry by Mancunian

Filed Under: Travel ideas

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