CARACAS – The United Airlines’ last service to Venezuela flew back to the United States last Friday.
The American airline thus joins the seemingly endless list of foreign commercial airlines which have followed on the airtrails of Alitalia and left the South American country due to a state debt to companies that amounts to 3.8 billion dollars, according to airline industry circles.
Prior to taking off to Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental airport from the Simón Bolívar International airport also known as Maiquetía for its precise location, the captain pulled a Venezuelan flag out of the cockpit window amid claps from workers on the tarmac.
United Airlines decided in early June to halt its only Venezuelan route because it had failed to meet its “financial expectations.”
International airlines are struggling to capitalize on their profits because of the government’s tight control of foreign currency exchange, having monopolized it since 2003. Any company operating legally in the country is forced to accept local currency (Bolivars) which they later must convert at a ludicrous official exchange rate that makes profitability an illusion.
“We’ll see each other again,” a flight attendant promised on a video shot by a passenger which went viral on social media.
— Reportes en Vivo (@ReportenVivo) June 30, 2017
The airlines that still operate in the country have cut their frequencies and routes, such as American Airlines, Delta, Air France and Iberia. “We hope no other airlines leave the market, although it is difficult to predict because we cannot ignore that the economic and political crisis can put an end to their will and desire to continue to provide services,” Humberto Figuera of the Association of Air Lines of Venezuela (ALAV) said.