State-owned Caribbean Airlines (CAL) is operating flights to Caracas, Venezuela from Caribbean Airlines (CAL) as normal even as ongoing civil unrest continues in that South American country. “At this time we continue fly at least daily to Caracas and we also offer return flights to and from Port-of-Spain using our ATR turboprop aircraft to service a flight that is generally well booked,” CAL communications manager Clint Williams told the T&T Guardian yesterday.
Air Canada has suspended flights to and from Venezuela, citing concerns over security. In a statement posted on its Web site, the airline says it can no longer ensure the safety of its operation in Venezuela, which has been roiled by daily street protests over crime and a deteriorating economy. The airline’s last flight left Caracas on Sunday. It is offering refunds to those who have purchased tickets for flights after that. The airline said it would consider resuming operations once the situation in Venezuela stabilises.
The carrier operated three return flights between Toronto and Caracas per week. Venezuela has had protests over the last month which has resulted in the deaths of almost 30 people. “Due to ongoing civil unrest in Venezuela, Air Canada can no longer ensure the safety of its operation and has suspended flights to Caracas until further notice,” says the Canadian airline in a statement.
Venezuela’s Minister of Air and Water Transport, Hebert García Plaza told the state run Venezuelan News Agency (AVN) that all business relations with Air Canada airline will be cut. “It was a dead-of-night decision. It was taken unilaterally by Air Canada. We will start the paperwork required via the Foreign Ministry. We ended that relationship with Air Canada until President Nicolas Maduro decides otherwise,” Plaza said.
He also said the Government met with 21 international airlines that offer services to Venezuela and all airlines are welcomed to the country. Williams said one area of concern for CAL is getting its money out of Venezuela because of irregular supplies of US dollars in the market there. “Naturally like all airlines we have concerns with repatriations. It is well documented that there are some challenges with getting the value of your tickets in US dollars as opposed to Venezuelan currency which is bolivares.
“There is a delay often in being able to get the funds out of the country. We continue to work with the authorities in Caracas to seek solutions. I would not be able to say how much it is as naturally it is a number that would change on a day to day basis,” Williams said. In January, Bloomberg Business Week in an article said due to Venezuela’s currency controls, airlines have US $3.3 billion from their local sales “trapped” there as United Airlines put it.
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