Saturday, December 08, 2007

Maya Maya

The wikipedia entry for Brazzaville's Maya Maya Airport is remarkably thin. But perhaps that's because no-one has much good to say about the place.

Unfortunately I find myself flying in and out of Brazzaville on a monthly basis. Avoiding the place is getting more and more difficult and the flights are always full. So the airport is continually at breaking point, stretched to the limits of bureaucratic incompetence.

It is hard to define exactly why Brazzaville's airport is so bad. It's dirty, it smells, it's incredibly inefficient and the entire place is run on the concept that if you want service then you have to pay for it. Think of that last statement as another way of saying "we have massive unemployment so we will make an entire industry by being totally inefficient and thus create jobs".

I don't have a problem with the idea that you pay for service, but here are a few pointers as to why the experience is always so bad:

- double doors are always half closed, restricting access to passengers toting luggage

- signs don't exist

- officials don't wear uniforms, so it's hard to tell who is official

- queues don't exist, survival of the fittest is the rule when waiting in what could loosely be defined as a line!

- Air France (the only European Airline) does nothing to help get through all this mess

- the airport security check is a joke; actually it is a way to fleece people leaving with local currency in their wallets

- the airline security is undertaken in a half light

- the transit bus (the airport has no jet ways) will load up and then sit for 15 minutes, baking its passengers like an oven

Now, don't get me wrong, I know how to get through all this mess as quick as the next frequent traveler. But I really feel for those who arrive in Brazzaville for the first time with no-one around to help. So I offer a piece of advice: use your elbows!