Venezuela goes from bad to worse: Delta drops and Avianca accelerates changes

On the one hand, I could just copy yesterday’s story about Avianca leaving Venezuela and replace the airline name with Delta. That would be easy and get to the same end result: the Aviation industry in Venezuela is collapsing in front of us. But there’s also a bit more to it.

Late Wednesday an internal document from Delta to Venezuelan authorities was made public where the carrier indicated its intention to halt Atlanta-Caracas flights effective mid-September. The final flight will be 16 September 2017 southbound returning the following morning. Much like everyone else pulling out the main concerns cited are safety and infrastructure. Delta has been trimming the service in recent months and is down to only 1x weekly service today. Flights after the 16/17 September turn are now zeroed out, though they remain on the schedule. A Delta spokesperson offered “At the moment we do not have any announcement to make with regards to our services to Caracas,” so nothing confirmed yet. It is hard for me to see any other path playing out here.

Avianca suspends Venezuela flights today

After yesterday’s news that Avianca will suspend flights in mid-August after 60 years of service comes news today that the timeline is accelerated, to the tune of an immediate halt in flights. Avianca cites “operational limitations” imposed last-minute by Venezuelan authorities as the cause for the abrupt halt in service. I have to wonder if there was some risk to the planes not being able to leave Venezuela or concerns that the airline would try to remove assets and/or people in these last couple weeks of flights. The company has canceled all future flights and halted future reservations in its booking systems.

Avianca's operations to Caracas are now fully canceled; the wind down in the next couple weeks will not happen as announced yesterday.
Avianca’s operations to Caracas are now fully canceled; the wind down in the next couple weeks will not happen as announced yesterday.

I still believe the Avianca cancelations are more significant than Delta’s for several reasons. It is more flights and a closer neighbor moving more connecting passengers in and out of the country. Caracas is down to about 50 arriving flights each day from what I can see. Long-haul service from Lisbon, Paris, Madrid and Istanbul (via Havana) continues but not daily. But only about a dozen of the arriving flights each day are flown by foreign carriers. The Venezuelan operators will continue to fly, assuming they can pay for services and fees in hard cash at the foreign airports, but it is unclear how much longer that will happen.

There are certainly complexities and uncertainties to the political situation in Venezuela right now. I’m far from an expert on unraveling that mess or getting to a solution. But I have to expect that the dozen-ish foreign flights will continue to dwindle. SBA Airlines and American are the only North American options remaining; Copa is the Central American holdout and prides itself on not dropping routes once established. But I cannot see how any of these remain in operation much longer without major change in the country’s political landscape. And that means the situation on the ground will continue to get worse.

Header Image: Caracas domestic airport terminal by Tadashi Okoshi via Flickr CC-BY 2.0

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. The airlines are basically done at this point (Air France also recently skipped a few flights and might be cutting more). There are not many ways for people to come or go, especially as the flights remaining won’t sell tickets in Venezuela or accept the local currency because they know they’ll never get that money out.

      TAP is the only European carrier flying in today. Some days there are a couple flights (Iberia, Air Europa, Turkish via Havana) and some days there are none. Copa and TAME still fly in from other South/Central American airports. American, SBA and a couple other random occasional charters also show up from the USA. There are only 40-50 daily flights at Caracas Airport even scheduled and most are by local operators, not foreign carriers.

      I’m pretty surprised the government has managed to hold on as long as it has so my expectations of collapse are probably overly aggressive. But the airlines are pretty much done there. I don’t see that changing without a regime shift.

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