Maiquetia International Airport in Caracas. Photo: Wikimedia
By Caribbean News Now contributor
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Along with the ubiquitous range of taxes and surcharges on air travel, Venezuela’s largest international airport is now charging travellers a fee for the right to breathe clean air.
Passengers flying out of Maiquetia International Airport in Caracas have to pay a tax of 127 bolivars (US$20 at the official exchange rate or around US$1.75 on the black market) to cover the cost of a newly-installed system that is claimed to use ozone to purify the building's air conditioning system.
A press release from the ministry of air transport said it is the first airport in South America and the Caribbean to use the technology, which it says will eliminate bacterial growth to "protect the health of travellers," as well as deodorizing and sanitising the building.
The latest additional cost of air travel out of the country – already problematic as a result of flight suspensions and reductions by international carriers and difficulty in purchasing tickets in local currency – has been greeted with both humour and outrage in a country that has the world’s largest oil reserves but no toilet paper.
Radio presenter Daniel Martínez said: "Could you explain to me the ozone thing in Maiquetia? The toilets don't have water, the air-conditioning is broken, there are stray dogs inside the airport, but there's ozone?"
Another comment on social media suggested that Venezuelans are now being charged for the “good gas” as opposed to the tear gas that local police frequently use on opposition protesters.