Unrest turns Venezuela into pariah for airlines

Jeanne Costes was stranded in Caracas for nearly a week, one of thousands of people affected by a withdrawal of foreign airlines balking at Venezuela’s unrest and collapsing economy. The 26-year-old French tourist residing in Peru had flown in from Paris with a connecting flight booked to Bogota. But her airline was Colombia’s Avianca, which suspended its Venezuela flights just as she arrived in Caracas. Her ordeal ended early this month, when she was put on another airline, but only after nights spent in a hotel hearing the clashes of protesters and security forces in demonstrations that have left nearly 130 people dead in the past four months. “We want to sue Air France (which provided the Paris-Caracas leg) and Avianca, because they knew very well what was going to happen once we were here,” Costes said. The pullout of foreign airlines began in 2014, when Venezuela’s economy began to slide in tandem with declining prices for oil — the country’s all-important export. Since then, the country has seen a drought of US dollars, hard currency which the government has been monopolising since 2003 with currency controls. As a result, the airlines have a massive pile of $3.8 billion owed to them but stuck in Venezuela, according to the International Air Transport Association. nike air zoom italia With no way of repatriating their income, most airlines last year stopped accepting Venezuela’s currency, the bolivar, for ticket purchases, demanding only dollars, an industry source said. Others have simply left. Between 2014 and 2015, Air Canada, Aeromexico, Alitalia, LAN from Chile, Brazil’s TAM and Gol, and Tiara from Aruba ceased services. adidas pas cher Last year, Dynamic from the US and Germany’s Lufthansa followed suit. This year has seen Avianca, Delta and United abandon Venezuela. Many of the airlines pulled out or pulled back “because the route isn’t profitable enough to justify the risks,” Humberto Figuera, president of the Venezuelan Airlines Association, said. air max 2016 flyknit A dozen foreign airlines are still operating in the country, but some have reduced their services. Panamanian company Copa remains the main airline carrying on almost as usual. Its outward flights from Caracas are overbooked weeks in advance, but its inbound ones are half-empty.