Roatan Airport Shuffle

May 1st, 2007
by Thomas Tomczyk

[private] v5-5-My Voice-AirportA voice through a muffled speaker says something to the extent: “Attention passenger. The flight to Atrhta brrpt.” “What did they say? Is Houston flight delayed?” asks a Texan in his sixties.

The Roatan airport on Saturday serves as a safety valve for anyone thinking about moving to the island. If it wasn’t for them, the island would probably swell and burst with visitors and migrants. There are other safety valves: RECO black-outs, rude and dangerous taxi drivers, a semi-existent road system, but the “Roatan farewell” leaves a lasting impression and sometimes clouds the images of colorful reefs and sandy beaches. This was my arrival departure experience on two of April’s 2007 Saturdays.
An airport security man comes with outstretched arms. Going between rows of hundreds of tourists sitting on the floor waiting for their flight, he carries two Sony Vaio laptops that were left behind at the security point. Anyone willing to raise their hand could end up with a Vaio.

Hundreds of people cue at the only security scanner. An airport scanning machine can be bought on E-bay for $4,500 and could double the speed of the clearing. Instead every Saturday, the airport becomes a scene of hoodlum.

A couple argues over a $150 fee for overstaying their 90 day visa by four days. The only immigration official doesn’t relent. The two hundred passengers stare in amazement.

As I get within 40 people from the security the lights go out. “How romantic,” I say. “I’ve been here four years ago and I almost forgot why I didn’t come back here for so long,” says a woman next to me.

Arrive to the airport 2 hours before departure, then spend the next hour and 45 minutes standing in cues and chaos before getting to your airplane.

Taxi driver shouts: “$20 dollars to West End, $30 to West Bay. Cheep!” I don’t think so. In New York City the four mile ride, similar to West End to Airport would cost you 4x5x$0.40 plus $2.10 initial fee= $22.10. At least

Two hundred passengers line shoulder to shoulder waiting for 45 minutes to clear immigration and pay one of world’s highest departure taxes. “Entrance to Honduras is free,” reads a sign at the arrival hall and immigration area. There probably should be another sign: “But, if you want to leave Honduras, make sure you’ve got $34 cash.”

There is no air conditioning and an overweight lady from Atlanta is about to faint. “I just want to get to the plane so at least we could get some air,” she says.

Three “security girls” perform luggage searches at the main waiting area for anyone with time to spare. Just like that, they fold their tables and leave. No one knows, or cares who had their hand luggage hand inspected. Why bother? The fee for the experience- $2. [/private]

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