There seems to be a rash of airplane hijackings to Cuba lately. One can only gather that the hijackers are disappointed refugees who are homesick for the old country and want to get back there as fast as possible.
This is understandable but very inconvenient for people who are on the same plane and have no interest in seeing Havana.
The U.S. government is doing everything to beef up security and weed out the would-be hijackers, but with little success. It seems to me that they are overlooking the easiest and cheapest solution to the problem.
Instead of trying to stop hijacking, we should provide free air transportation back to any Cuban refugee who doesn't want to stay.
Major fields in Florida would have planes on a 24-hour standby basis, and all the disaffected Cuban would have to do is call a toll-free number and make a reservation.
The planes would be provided by the airlines, who would save thousands of dollars by giving this kind of service rather than dealing with the rerouting of a hijacked plane and the irate passengers that are on board.
This is how the "Hijacker Money-Saving Plan" would work:
As each refugee disembarks in Key West or some other port of entry, he would be handed an airline schedule which would say: "Fly to Cuba. Delta Is Ready When You Are."
Let us assume that Raoul Domingos has just set foot on American soil and doesn't like what he sees. A red-jacketed agent will greet him on the dock and ask if he can be of help.
Raoul will say, "I don't like it here and I want to go home."
"No problem," the agent will reply. "We have a DC10 leaving for Havana in an hour. Do you want to go first-class or tourist?"
"I have no money."
"The flight is free. We serve a champagne luncheon and we're showing 'Smokey and the Bandit.'"
If Raoul replies, "I want to see my cousin in Chicago first," the agent will say, "You can still fly back to Havana after that. Just go to any airline office and tell them you're a potential hijacker and they will give you an airline ticket to connect you with one of our shuttle flights leaving on the hour from Miami."
"Do I have to change in Atlanta?"
"Everyone has to change in Atlanta. But one of our federal marshals will meet your plane and escort you to the right gate and help you with your baggage."
"I may want to see Disney World first."
"Be our guest. Air Florida has a red-eye special leaving Orlando at 11 o'clock in the evening. It will get you into Havana by 1 o'clock in the morning."
"Do I have to make a reservation in advance?"
"Of course not. Just show up at the airport and they'll leave whenever you're ready."
Having been informed that there is no need to hijack a plane to get home, Raoul and the people like him will have no desire to do anything illegal to return to their motherland.
It is only fair to mention that most Cuban refugees who have arrived on these shores do not have any desire to return to Mr. Castro's socialist paradise, and no one should be given a free ride back against his will.
But there are a few such as Raoul who find the U.S. does not live up to their expectations, and we owe it to them to see that they get back to Cuba safe and sound.
To publicize the new U.S.-to-Cuba service, the airlines could buy billboard space all over the country which would say: "America -- love IT -- OR CONTACT YOUR NEAREST TRAVEL AGENT FOR FURTHER INFORMATION."