The flight from O'Hare to Miami was about what I've grown to expect from domestic flights. It got in
late (around 11:15) but was a nice smooth flight, with normal amounts of waiting. The flight from
Miami to Havana was a good deal different from anything I had ever experienced.
First of all, the group of 20 people were not all together. Initially we were supposed to be, but then
relatively last-minute (Thursday or Friday) we were split into two different groups. The first group of 8
was getting a 1:00 flight out of Miami, the second group of 12 was taking a 5:00 flight out of Miami. I
was in the earlier group.
Our flight was at 1, so we aimed to arrive at the airport at 9:00. This meant targeting departure for 8:00
(we arranged a shuttle from the airport at that time) because inevitably things happen like the driver
deciding at 7:45 to take other people to the airport and come back for us a little late, and before you
know it it's 8:30 and we're fighting the group that had arranged for an 8:30 shuttle as to why we should
be allowed to go first. (It worked out very peacefully, but was still kind of frustrating.)
We did make it to the airport by nine, which was good, because we had arranged to meet with someone
who would help make sure we got through the US side of things fine. We were there on time. She
wasn't. She did show up with the necessary paperwork we were missing (Landing Vouchers, which I
didn't turn in despite landing in Cuba) then told us what forms to have out and ready. And then we took
an elevator down and walked what seemed to be the entire length of the Miaimi International Airport
basement level. I kept catching myself turning around to make sure we hadn't lost anyone. Old habits
die hard, but I will say it's much easier with 8 people than with the 20 at O'Hare.
The US side of things wasn't all that terrible. I made sure I had the necessary paperwork ready, watched
the Professor going with us as he went through everything he was supposed to do, and was prepared
when the officials asked me to do the same. Even whent hey asked me to do somewhat bizarre things
like step onto the scale like I was a bag about to be weighed.
We'd budgeted ourselves a lot of time because it could sometimes take a lot of time, but even with the
multiple delays we'd had, we were through security with over two hours to spare. Enough time for a
nice wandering around looking for places that sold international phones, lunch, and plenty of time at
the gate. Especially when the departure time got pushed from 1 to 1:30.
At 1:20, we were sitting at gate J6. The Departures board still said that the 1:00 flight to Havana was
now leaving at 1:30 from J6. Not only was there no plane, there was no sign of any official people who
knew what was going on. There was a family who were (I believe) visiting a close relative living in
Cuba (I didn't catch that much of the conversation) and several women who might have been Cuban
American. One of them assured me that there was no problem, flights to Cuba were always like that.
And then, with a single announcement, we were suddenly all lining up and showing our boarding
passes and passports to get in. we went straight from there to a room which we all had to crowd into
and wait. It felt like we were in one of those amusement park haunted castle tours where the room
would turn out to be an elevator so that they could show the wall decorations changing. But an elevator
wouldn't quite get us to Havana.
Then they opened the other set of doors, and we could walk through, go down a flight of stairs, and get
onto a bus. The bus brought us to the plane. The plane didn't look that small until you turned around
and remembered what size a real plane was. And then you realized our plane was significantly smaller
The first three rows had double the leg room. Literally, you could have fit another seat in between each
of those rows without any objection from passengers. I was sitting in 3C, a window seat in the first
three rows. (The plane only had 3 seats per row.) It was wonderful. I mean, sure, the seat in front of me
was so far ahead that I couldn't easily reach the bag I put there., and storing items in the seat pocket
was pointless. But leg room!
The flight attendant (I believe there was just the one) was also a good deal friendlier than I'm used to
flight attendants being. He joked with each passenger, both individually, and also while making official
“M'aam, I'm going to have to ask you to put those (knitting needles) away. I don't want you stabbing
the person sitting next to you (which was the teacher we were traveling with. Probably being right
behind him during check-in is what got me in the first 3 rows) during take-off. Once you're in the air
it's OK.” (I did put away my knitting to take out my notebook and pen. A .3mm gel ink pen is a lot
sharper than US 2 bamboo needles, so it was only an illusion of safety.)
“In the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before helping any others who are
traveling with you and are unable to help themselves, such as children, or adults who are acting like
(As the plane touched down.) “Welcome to Miami.”
He also did come around with bottles of water and bags of chips. It didn't entirely surprise me that we
were being fed on this flight but not the other one.
Overall, wonderful flight experience. Also (maybe not entirely coincidental) only 45 minutes. It kind of
felt like the waste of an airplane. Havana is only 90 south of Miami. It wouldn't be worth the separate
flight, except that there are still a relatively small number of airports that fly into Havana. The Havana
airport is pretty small.
During one of the classes we'd had before leaving, our teachers had told us we would not be getting
passport stamps. They'd then proceeded to tell us that this was a good thing, because if it were in a
passport we would be questioned every time we try to reenter the United States.
So after landing I was somewhat alarmed by how long the person was taking checking my passport and
Visa. And making a lot of different punchy/stampy noises. This, combined with the fact that the place
we were standing was claustrophobia-inducing (someone described it as being like a horse stall) and
the fact that I was told to take off my glasses and then focus on a camera I hadn't noticed before
combined to make it rather nerve-wracking. And then there was a buzzing noise and I was trying to
figure out if I should wait or go through the door and then I had trouble opening the door, and.... once I
was through and was just waiting for everyone else and my luggage to show up, I checked my passport.
The person from Cuba had stamped it.
I really hope this isn't an issue the next time I travel.