Avianca bails on Venezuela
Avianca is dropping service to Caracas as of 16 August 2017, ending 60 years of service to its neighbor. In a statement issued on its Facebook page the company indicates that safety and infrastructure concerns in dropping the routes from Bogota and Lima to Caracas (emphasis in original):
Due to the difficulties presented by the aerial operation in Venezuela, Avianca will no longer operate the Bogotá-Caracas-Bogotá and Lima-Caracas-Lima routes starting Wednesday, August 16, 2017, when the last flights will be made Between these cities. As a result, the airline suspends ticket sales for travel after August 16 on these routes.
This measure is based on the need to adapt several processes to international standards, improve airport infrastructure in Venezuela and ensure consistency in operations. Nevertheless, Avianca will examine this decision, once it knows the results of the technical work that will be carried out by the Authorities of both countries to solve these operational and security impediments.
Not mentioned, though implied in some of the statements, is the part where Venezuela is sitting on billions of dollars in foreign airline money that has very, very little chance of ever being paid back to those airlines. United recent dropped its service completely after previously implementing a tech stop in Aruba to avoid crew overnights in Caracas. Avianca’s daily flight to Lima is the only nonstop service between the two cities. In Bogota Avianca operates twice daily alongside TAME, Copa Colombia and Conviasa.
During the recent IATA Annual General Meeting the industry trade group’s VP Americas Peter Cerda spoke to the commercial challenges of continuing service to Venezuela:
The industry is trying to be sympathetic. Airlines don’t want to pull out of Venezuela. But we are getting to a point where airlines need to make business decisions. We continue to advocate with the government to try to find solutions… But unfortunately at this time we have not reached common ground between the government and the industry.
It is a financial calamity but also a humanitarian one. Conditions in Venezuela continue to deteriorate and as each further airline drops service that reduces options for humanitarian aid or supplies to reach the country.