Avianca announced today that it will be suspending all flights to Venezuela effective immediately, overturning an announcement yesterday stating that the airline would be suspending flights to Venezuela after August 16th. In addition, Delta Air Lines has submitted paperwork to Venezuelan authorities announcing the suspension of their operations in Venezuela effective September 17th. This news comes on the heels of United Airlines suspending flights to Venezuela earlier this summer, striking another blow to a reeling industry in the country, which has seen over a dozen international airlines leave within recent years.

Avianca cited security concerns in deciding to suspend flights past mid-August, however in its eleventh-hour decision, the airline spoke of last minute operational difficulties that forced it to suspend operations immediately. The airline operated twice-daily flights to its hub in Bogota, plus five-times weekly to Lima. Avianca has operated to Venezuela for 60 years — besides the suspension of service in October 2016 when an Avianca Boeing 787 was intercepted by Venezuelan Air Force jets in Venezuelan airspace, forcing the aircraft to leave.

A Delta Boeing 737-700 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The airline uses these planes on its Atlanta – Caracas route, which will be suspended in mid-September. Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons / Oscar Elvir Vasquez

While Delta has not officially confirmed the suspension of operations to Venezuela, leaked documents have shown that the airline intends to suspend its weekly service from Atlanta to Caracas. Delta first reduced operations to the country in 2014, when it cut its daily service to Caracas to once-weekly. The airline has not given any reasons for the suspension of operations, however, it is likely that the airline is concerned about safety as well.

Carriers operating in Venezuela have faced many operational challenges in the past few years, including anti-government protests across the country and street violence, leading to unsafe environments for workers and passengers alike. In addition, airlines face economic challenges operating into Venezuela as the country has refused to give airlines money for tickets sold in Venezuelan bolivars. In 2016, American Airlines, Delta, and United asked the U.S. Department of Transportation for antitrust immunity to discuss the $3.8 billion stuck in the country. Some carriers, such as TAP Portugal, have stopped selling tickets in Venezuelan bolivars due to the government’s actions.

A view of the concourse at Caracas Airport. Photo Credits: Caracas Airport

The inconsistency of domestic airlines’ international operations leads passengers to rely on international carriers to fly out of the country, and their options are dwindling with the new cuts in service. The only carrier left flying to the U.S. is American Airlines, which has already cut service from its hubs at Dallas/Ft. Worth and New York JFK in recent years, leaving only twice-daily flights to Miami.

To Europe, Caracas still has a number of connections, including flights to Lisbon on TAP Portugal, Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, Madrid on Air Europa and Iberia and Paris on Air France, although TAP and Iberia have reduced their operations to Venezuela in recent years. However, within South America, Caracas has a dwindling amount of connections, with direct flights to Buenos Aires, Bogota, Panama City, Port of Spain and Santiago the only flights left, a humbling amount of flights for an airport that used to be one of the shining stars of South America.

Featured photo by Avianca.

Categories: Industry Talk