We woke once again way before dawn to travel by taxi back to the Ayacucho airport for our early morning flight back to Lima. There’s only one flight per day and we were careful to get to the airport in plenty of time. It’s a small airport, security is minimal, there’s no maze of terminals to walk through. There’s the ticket counter, the tarmac and that’s it. We walked up to the ticket counter but no one was there. A few people milled around the door that led to the tarmac and Sarah hailed one down. A ticket attendant took our luggage and tickets (prepaid and reserved well in advance) then started talking about airport taxes.
In Peru, you pay a tax to leave the airport and the price varies from site to site. She took our passports and wandered off. When she returned she started collecting tax fees (which had to be paid in cash). We handed over more than the requested amount and waited for the attendant to make change. She apologized for the inconvenience but didn’t have change to give. “Huh?” Sarah asked, “Are you kidding? You can’t make change for a twenty?” “Nope.” The attendant took off with our money and passports and when she returned apologized again. “Sorry, they’ve already closed the plane doors for takeoff. We can’t let you on.” We looked at the clock. Our flight wasn’t schedule to take off for quite a while yet.
Sarah flew into action, arguing, begging and eventually crying with any and all crew that was gathered in the airport. We could see the plane on the tarmac—a tiny 18-seater and the steps were still down. The pilots stood around shooting the breeze but they weren’t going to let us on. As Sarah pleaded our case, another ticket attendant still had my passport and wouldn’t give it back. Coincidentally (or not), he asked for another airport tax and, surprise, surprise, couldn’t make change for my bill either.
Eventually, either Sarah’s tears or the ever-expanding airport tax did the trick and they allowed us to run for the plane. I’d been told (prior to traveling) that if the police ever give you any trouble in Latin American, just start crying. They can’t stand to see a woman cry. The feminist in me hates that this tactic ever has to be employed but dang, Sarah was effective. Those tears were Oscar quality drama. Once we got on the plane, we sat there for enough time that Sarah and I realized we’d just been had. Airport taxes? OK, we’ll call it that. Considering there was no other flight out and our alternative meant a nine-hour bus ride back to Lima, we were happy to get our seats. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
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