CARACAS – Colombia’s Avianca Holdings SA will suspend flights to Venezuela next month, joining other major carriers that have cut off access to the South American nation engulfed in violent political protests and economic chaos.
Avianca will stop its twice-daily flights between Caracas and Bogota as well as an almost daily flight to Lima on Aug. 16, the company said in a statement, citing Venezuela’s need to improve airport infrastructure and adapt to international security standards.
“After more than 60 years of continuous service to Venezuela, we regret having to make this difficult decision,” chief executive officer Hernan Rincon said. “But its our obligation to guarantee operational security.”
Venezuelans will now find it even harder to travel abroad, with the country practically cut off from the rest of Latin America on major carriers except for flights to Panama City operated by Copa Holdings SA. Outside of Latin America, American Airlines still flies from Caracas to Miami, while Air France, Iberia and Air Europa continue to service European destinations.
United Airlines, whose flights to Caracas had been popular with oil executives in Texas and Venezuelans living in the U.S., stopped service to Caracas this month citing low demand.
The recent withdrawals from the country join a long list that includes Chile’s Latam Airlines, which suspended its Caracas service from Brazil, Chile, and Peru last year. Aeromexico also ended flights between Venezuela and Mexico City in 2016, while Deutsche Lufthansa dropped its flights from Frankfurt.
Carriers have asked the U.S. Department of Transportation for antitrust immunity so they could discuss ways to retrieve $3.8 billion trapped in the country because of its strict currency controls that have virtually halted the repatriation of ticket sales previously conducted in the local bolivar currency.