CARACAS, Venezuela–Air Canada says it has suspended its flights to and from Venezuela due to civil unrest. In a statement posted on its website Monday, the airline says it can no longer ensure the safety of its operation in Venezuela, which has been roiled by daily street protests over crime and a deteriorating economy for more than a month. The airline’s last flight left Caracas on Sunday. It is offering refunds to those who have purchased tickets for flights after that. Foreign airlines have struggled under a $3.3 billion debt owed by the Venezuelan government. President Nicolas Maduro said Friday any airline that reduced or suspended flights in and out of Venezuela would face severe measures. He said any airline that leaves won’t be allowed back while he is in power. Avianca will cancel flights bewteen San Jose, Costa Rica and Caracas by April 7th. Also the Colombian flag carrier will reduce frequencies between Bogota and Lima and the Venezuelan capital.
CARACAS, Venezuela–President Nicolas Maduro warned airlines not to limit flights in and out of Venezuela, days after Avianca reported was reducing flights to Caracas amid industry complaints of billions of dollars in unpaid debts. “Airlines have no excuse to reduce their flights to Venezuela”, Maduro said during a press conference. “If airlines reduce flights, I will take severe measures.” Airlines have struggled to obtain dollars in exchange for the Bolivar currency as a result of long-running delays in Venezuela’s 11-year-old currency control system. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) this week said that airlines are owed USD $3.7 billion and that some are considering halting service to Venezuela. “If an airline leaves the country, it’s not coming back while we are in government”, Maduro said, casting the airlines’ complaints as part of a wider economic war against his socialist government by political foes and businesses. Maduro also said, however, that his government would pay debts to the airline industry. Avianca Holdings, operator of Colombia’s biggest airline, on Thursday told travel agents it will cut flights between the countries’ capitals to one day from three as of March 20th. Avianca will suspend flights between Caracas and San Jose, Costa Rica, as part of an effort “to match supply to market needs” and reduce the number of seats available between Caracas and Lima. The company’s Chief Executive said that currency controls hade made it difficul to bring revenue worrth about USD$300 million out of Venezuela. German airline Lufthansa said this month its 2013 financial results took a double-digit million euro hit from payment issues in Venezuela. Maduro said that various airlines around the world were ready to step in and cover any unfilled routes. “They’re asking permission to cover flights to Colombia, Panama, Central and South America”, he said without giving more details. Venezuelan state-run air carrier CONVIASA is expected to take over several routes like the Caracas-San Jose run.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Avianca informed on March 12th, it will suspend its San Jose-Caracas-San Jose route effective April 7th. The route has been operated by LACSA since the seventies when the service connected San Jose with the Venezuelan capital with stops in Panama City, Barranquilla and Maracaibo. When LACSA was purchased by Salvadorian TACA International Airlines, the route was changed to a non-stop flight between the two capitals. Last May Avianca (the Colombian flag carrier that purchased 70% of Grupo TACA) decided to shut down the former LACSA’s hub at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, cancelling the non-stop flights to New York-JFK, Los Angeles, Monterrey, Havana, Quito and Guayaquil. The next route to be cancelled was San Jose-Miami and now “adios Caracas”. Costa Ricans will be forced now to fly via Bogota using the Avianca services or Panama City with COPA Airlines. It is now expected the Costa Rican government and AERIS (the private company that manages the Juan Santamaria International Airport) will request Venezuelan flag carrier CONVIASA to take the route.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–Last September the Costa Rican team that runs the airline Ticos Air presented the required documentation to the Civil Aviation General Directorate in order to be certified to operate international flights in Costa Rica. It was expected the airline to start services by December, but still the new Costa Rican carrier has not been able to take off. The director of the Directorate (DGAC) informed the airline has not been able to move forward to the third phase of its certification, since it has not presented yet any of the five Airbus A-319s it stated will use for its international services to Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Caracas and Mexico City. Rumors in Costa Rica are Ticos Air’s CEO Gino Renzi has not been able to secure any investors for the airline to take off and that its loosing momentum. The airline has its headquarters in Forum, a high end business center in Escazu, but no one from the airline has been able to clarify when the airline will launch its flights. In the past several ill-fated projects for a Costa Rican carrier never took off, like West Caribbean Costa Rica and Aeropostal Alas de Centro America.
CARACAS, Venezuela–After announcing this week the devaluation of its currency (the Bolivar), the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is practically isolated. The Venezuelan travel agencies have stopped selling airline tickets after some international carriers like Air Europa, Iberia, Air France, Lufthansa, TAP-Portugal, TAME, COPA, United and American Airlines also decided to suspend ticket sales. The Venezuelan Government has a debt of up to 2800 million Euros with all the international airlines operating to the socialist country. This week governement officials met with Air Europa executives, hoping to find a solution in order to pay the debt with the airline, up to 130 million Euros, but it seems both parts couldn’t reach an agreement. The economist Francisco Faraco has defined the situation as “The Bankruptcy of the Venezuelan State”. Its believed that more airlines will suspend sales and most probably operations to Venezuelan airports in the near future.
QUITO, Ecuador–TAME’s General Manager Fernando Guerrero informed on January 23rd the Ecuadorian flag carrier suspended temporarily its scheduled flights from Quito to Caracas. The reason for the suspension of services comes as a result of the problems the airlines are having in Venezuela, securing their sales earnings to be transferred by the Central Bank of Venezuela’s CADIVI Department (Comision de Administracion de Divisas) the government’s control center of foreign currency. Since April 2013 the CADIVI has not transferred the funds to TAME, an amount of $43,174,603. Fernando Guerrero also informed as soon CADIVI transfers the funds, TAME will reinstate the flights to Caracas.
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica–The recently formed Costa Rican airline, Ticos Air, is searching for personnel to fill several administrative and technical posts. Marketing Manager Daniel Gil said the new company plans to hire 120 employees, who will join 22 current workers to launch the airline’s operations. Gil said the company expects to begin operating its first flights in early 2014.Ticos Air provided the Civil Aviation Administration in Costa Rica (DGAC in spanish) with the required documentation for operating permits last June. The airline will operate five Airbus 319 aircraft, and the first destinations are Mexico City, Caracas, New York and Miami.The company formed in December 2012, and has since been establishing offices in San José, hiring workers, buying planes, and conducting other preparations. TACA Airlines’ decision last May to drop five non-stop flights to Costa Rica from the United States and other countries created a market opportunity for Ticos Air and other international airlines. TACA Airlines also laid off 261 employees (pilots, flight attendants and operations) from its Costa Rica operations as part of an integration process with Colombian flag carrier airline Avianca. The airline’s website, www.ticosair.com, is currently under construction. Ticos Air will try to fill the vacuum left after the demise of Aero Costa Rica S.A. in 1997 and the full absortion of LACSA by TACA Airlines and later in 2009 by Avianca. The airline will use Juan Santamaria International Airport as its hub but it is also expected the airline will operate to Liberia International Airport in Guanacaste.