The return of TAP Air Portugal flights to Caracas could mark a turning point in the context of what has been a serious isolation in international flight connectivity in Venezuela in recent years. Many airlines left the country due to the debts of the State with the companies, the political conflict in the times of Chavismo, security and infrastructure problems, international sanctions on the Government of Nicolás Maduro and the pandemic.
In recent months, companies such as Air France, Sky, Lan Chile, Iberia, Aerolineas Argentinas, Avianca and Wyngo have contacted the authorities of the National Institute of Civil Aeronautics (INAC) to explore the terrain and the possibility of resuming operations in the country. The Colombian airlines Avianca and Wyngo will have to wait for the political conditions between the governments of Colombia and Venezuela to materialize, relations that are currently broken, but that could change after the Colombian elections, whose first round is held in two weeks. US airlines – American Airlines, in particular – will have to wait for the end of the sanctions imposed by Washington on the Chavista government, a horizon that is still distant.
Until now, according to information from the president of the National Association of Air Lines, ALAV, Humberto Figuera, in addition to TAP, only five international airlines serve the Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetía. These are Cubana de Aviación, the Panamanian Copa, Turskih Airlines, Air Europa and Plus Ultra, which together with the eight Venezuelan aviation companies are in charge of attending to the ailing panorama of commercial flights in the country.
“I think it is very possible that other companies will return soon, perhaps in the second half of this year,” says Figuera, who affirms that some conditions for the provision of commercial services related to citizen security and the economic environment – with the end of the long exchange controls in place in the country—and political calm have improved.
The collapse of the connectivity of commercial aviation services in Venezuela took place in several phases and, like the collapse of the entire national economy, began in 2014, when the currency crisis and the anarchy in the finances of the Government of Nicolás Maduro caused The Venezuelan State accumulated a debt of 3,700 million dollars with a significant number of European and Latin American airlines – Alitalia, Lutfhansa, Latam, Avianca, Air Canada, Caribbean Airlines, Intel, Mexicana, Gol, TAM, Lan Chile and Lan Peru, among others. others, who then progressively decided to leave the country. At the time, Maduro interpreted the decision as an affront, and threatened these companies that if they went, they would never come back.
The worsening of relations with the United States soon after began to complicate operations for the Continental and American companies, which also began to face problems with their unions and labor force, reluctant to go to Venezuela due to problems derived from crime. American made a special effort to delay his departure from Venezuela as much as possible, but ended up leaving the country.
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The political conflict, together with the international condemnation of the legitimacy and methods of the Government of Nicolás Maduro, aggravated the isolation, which, together with the arrival of the pandemic, turned the Maiquetía Airport into a redoubt for contemplation and solitude.
Figuera considers that it is time to change the situation. “For many of these companies, Venezuela was a traditionally important market. The airlines of Spain, Portugal and Italy, due to the immigrants who arrived in Venezuela during the second part of the 20th century, are destinations with many common citizens. Now, the enormous number of Venezuelans in these same countries and in others in Latin America is added. The normal thing is that these planes are full ”, he maintains.
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