Even as diplomatic tensions ease up and commercial air travel begins to resume between Venezuela and Colombia, only Turpial Airlines will begin to operate the routes between the two countries. Unfortunately, Venezuelan flag carrier Líneas Aéreas Conviasa remains unable to operate the route due to sanctions imposed by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Why can’t Líneas Aéreas Conviasa fly?
On August 5th, 2019, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control filed a motion to oppose the Venezuelan government’s regime for misuse of Líneas Aéreas Conviasa. According to the US Office of Foreign Assets, the misuse was heavily regarded as how the Venezuelan government had been commandeering the flag carrier’s fleet of aircraft to shuttle government officials, among other non-commercial air transportation activities.
Seeing that Líneas Aéreas Conviasa was not being commercially used to transport passengers and help progress Venezuela, the actions of the Venezuelan government was condemned as benefiting only political agendas, putting cause for the sanction. And as the airline and its aircraft are considered state-owned property, the sanctions were applied, and the airline has remained effectively grounded on the Caracas-Bogota route since then.
Líneas Aéreas Conviasa cannot provide any support to flight operations without the risk of receiving penalties and fines. Photo: Orlando Suarez via Wikimedia Commons
Are other airlines affected?
Although Líneas Aéreas Conviasa can’t operate commercial travel due to the sanctions and without risking being heavily fined, other non-sanctioned airlines are permitted to work in the region. This is why the Colombian Aeronautical Authority authorized Turpial Airlines to operate the flights that will commence on September 26th.
Announcing the appointment on Twitter, the Colombian Aeronautical Authority said:
“The Venezuelan airline Turpial Airlines received authorization from the Colombian Civil Aeronautics to land in Bogotá following Monday, September 26th, from Caracas. This is excellent news for the recovery of the binational air connectivity.”
With its relatively small fleet of only three Boeing 737-400 aircraft, Turpial Airlines will be allowed to transport cargo, passengers, and mail within the Fifth Freedom of the Air. In total, Turpial Airlines will offer 27 flights scheduled through December 30th.
The Fifth Freedom of the Air was authorized by the diplomatic agreement between the governments of Nicolás Maduro and Gustavo Petro. Photo: Svva.aviation via Wikimedia Commons
What’s the significance of international air travel in Venezuela?
The urgent need for Turpial Airlines to fill in the gap and offer flights between the two countries highlights the significance of international air travel for Venezuela. In 2019, more than 160,200 passengers were transported between Caracas and Bogota, making the Colombian capital one of Venezuela’s primary international destinations, behind Panama and Madrid.
Unfortunately, as of June 2022, only 71 international flights weekly are currently being operated by seven carriers out of Venezuela, including Air Europa, Copa Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Avior Airlines, and Plus Ultra Líneas Aéreas. The current numbers are a far cry from the more than 230 international weekly flights back in 2017, which included major carriers such as American Airlines, Air France, Aerolíneas Argentina, Delta Air Lines, TAP Air Portugal, and Wingo, among others.
With the significant difference in just a few years, it is clear that Venezuela relies heavily on international air traffic and would need to attract back as many foreign airlines as possible. Fortunately, among the international airlines that frequented Venezuela before, approximately 10 were interested in resuming commercial flight services and have begun contacting the country’s National Institute of Civil Aviation. Air France, Aerolíneas Argentina, and Iberia were among the 10 interested airlines.
Colombian airline Wingo has recently received its final approval from the National Institute of Civil Aeronautics for the sale of air tickets and flight schedules, so this could be another airline returning to Venezuala shortly. Photo: Getty Images
As Turpial Airlines commences flights relatively soon, and with the approval given to Wingo, flight services between Colombia and Venezuela could pick up a lot quicker than anticipated. While it is a pity that Líneas Aéreas Conviasa cannot fly the route, its at least still being serviced to help increase air traffic from Venezuela’s top international destination. And as more foreign carriers seek interest in returning to Venezuela, the country remains hopeful that the number of weekly international flights could rise back to being as busy as before.