Originally built in the 1940s, the airport as we know it was built mostly in the seventies and eighties. Back in the day, it was a symbol of what Venezuela aspired to be. Even Concorde used to come to our shores.
But that was then.
These days, Maiquetía is part and parcel of the crisis facing the country’s aviation sector. IAIM, the agency that runs the Airport, has spent considerable sums to improve service. Sadly, Latin Business Chronicle (LBC) has called Maiquetía “the worst airport in Latin America for business travelers”.
In the full article, only available for suscription, they touch on the state of the Caracas-La Guaira highway:
“…how vulnerable that link is to disasters, both natural and man-made, was made abundantly clear in 2006, when one of the main viaducts on the route collapsed, forcing an average 50,000 vehicles a day onto a narrow, hastily-built by-pass and frequently turning what should be a 45-minute journey into a four- or five-hour nightmare.
A new viaduct was opened in June 2007, but the problem is far from solved. The four kilometres of highway closest to Caracas are threatened by an active geological fault line, as well as subsidence caused by inadequate drainage of slum housing on the hills above. The only permanent solution is a new highway, taking a different route, but work on that has yet to begin.”
But the problem is about more than access. There are accidents, stolen luggage, problems with the runway, constant delays, sky-high fees and the run-of-the-mill despicable Caracas-style customer service.
Despite a recent, partial face-lift, the experience of flying through there ranges from disappointing to maddening. Walls remain unpainted, the cheap plastic floor on the hallway to the immigration is bubbling up, and the finishing on the granite lining the columns is slapdash. You can’t help but wonder: if that’s how the place in plain view of the passengers looks, what can it possibly be like away from travellers’ eyes?
Maiquetia faces the kind of multi-decade dysfunction that takes more than a couple of paint jobs to cover.