We’re extremely curious to learn the backstory on why Louis Armando Peña Soltren decided to return to the U.S. from Cuba yesterday. He’d been hiding in Fidel Castro’s alleged proletarian paradise for over four decades, and now seems likely to spend the rest of his days in a federal penitentiary for orchestrating a 1968 skyjacking. Or perhaps not—though it’s tough to imagine the U.S. government forgiving such a crime, perhaps they’re willing to let bygones be bygones given the rather archaic politics that motivated the act.
Soltren’s return did remind us that hijackings to Havana were once considered a grave national security threat, ended only by the FAA’s insistence that all airports in the Western Hemisphere comply with basic security principles. (The majority of the hijackers boarded American aircraft in Latin American capitals, where screening procedures were lax.) Yet that security beef-up came to late for some smaller airlines that suffered at the hands of hijackers. Case in point: defunct Capitol Air, which had to empty its small coffers to ensure that its waylaid passengers were taken care of:
No one is able to put an exact price tag on a hijacking, but one unscheduled stop at Jose Marti International Airport can chew as much as $25,000 from an airline’s budget.
The latest hijacking, Thursday night’s diversion of a flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Miami, ended up costing Capitol Airlines an extra $10,000 to $15,000 because the hijacked jet blew a tire and another plane had to be chartered to bring back some passengers.
“Poor Capitol. It really impacted them,” said a sympathetic Jim Ashlock, spokesman for Miami-based Eastern Airlines.
In other words, though the Cuban-bound hijackers may never have succeeded in bringing about revolution, at least they helped drive some small commuter airlines out of business. Che Guevara would be proud.