A Day at the Airport [Archives:2000/36/Viewpoint]

September 4 2000

A few days ago, I went to Sanaa Airport to see off my sister who was leaving for Jordan. As soon as I approached the airport I felt the improvements. I saw that vehicles are not any more forbidden from temporarily parking next to the departure gate. Cars can now easily stop at the gate, unload baggage and leave without any problems. Once I entered the airport, I witnessed the new structure of the departure and arrival entrances. They have separated them from each other, hence facilitating the movement of passengers. I saw sweepers cleaning nonstop to make the airport feel and look as clean and organized as possible. I truly felt relieved and thankful for these efforts that bring a good image of the administration. However, later I did regret coming to the airport after all.
Just as I approached the entrance to the ticket reserving desks, I asked the officer (a soldier!) if it is possible to enter with my sister to help her finish her travel procedures and carry the bags with her, as there are no trolleys at all inside. He then replied, “no way, you need a signed permission from the security first.” I traveled many countries in the world, and know that many countries in the developing world do not allow people to enter with travelers, so I was understanding in moving away seeking for the office where permission is granted. I asked another officer (also a soldier with a kalashnikov!) and he said I must go to the security officer’s office. A few minutes later I was at his office and innocently said, “Please, I would like to get a written permission to enter with my sister, etc.” He replied carelessly, “so what do you want me to do?” I said, “The soldier at the entrance said I should get permission from you to enter.” He again carelessly nimbled a few words and said, “I have no authority to do that, you should go to the airport’s Security Manager upstairs.” It took me ten minutes to reach to the office of the Security Manager, and asked, “Good morning, I would like to get permission to enter, ….” He then said in a rude manner, “We got no permissions!!” I then replied, “I can see that you have got the airport more organized and clean, and I do believe that the system is active and efficient. This is why I would like to go with the system and ask for permission. He stood up and said, “So what? I told you there are no permissions whatsoever. You claim that you are going by the rules and the system. Now I want you to try the other way!” I got truly upset and said you should not treat your customers this way, and he angrily replied that this is what he does all the time and people are happy with it! I couldn’t hold myself from telling him that he should explain to his soldiers -in tens- guarding the entrances that they should not instruct passengers to get permission to enter. They should rather say there are no permissions rather than having them exhausting themselves for nothing. He sat on his chair again and carelessly continued his chat with the person next to him.
I went down to the entrance where I found my sister still waiting and by coincidence found a Yemenia officer. I asked him whether he could help my sister with her procedures, etc. What he said was amazing, “Just go on in and do it yourself.” Then he simply instructed the soldier to let me in.
This is simply one example that shows no matter what we do with the furniture or design or cleanliness of the airport, it is impossible to have it enhanced unless qualified and trained officers are in charge. The action of the Security Manager in itself is an irresponsible action showing that we still need to go a long way to offer acceptable services. In the mean time, we as Yemenis will have to do with what we have, however this will never help boost tourism or give a good image of Yemen. It is not the place that is needed for repair and enhancement, but rather the mentality of the people in charge! Walid Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf