A flight crew working for Air Europa had a frightening experience in Venezuela this weekend when they were attacked en route to their hotel. The incident led to a shootout, a terrifying experience for anyone, and has raised concerns over whether Air Europa will still operate flights to the country.
Armed attack on Air Europa crew
Air Europa’s flight crew was attacked on what should have been a routine trip to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, over the weekend. The crew members arrived in the country safely where they had plans to stay overnight. Air Europa had provided accommodation for the crew at a hotel in downtown Caracas, as well as transportation to get them there safely. Or so they thought.
The Air Europa crew was riding in a transport bus to the hotel when the vehicle was suddenly surrounded by three armed motorcyclists attempting to rob them. The bus maintained course to the hotel despite the disturbance.
When the bus arrived, the scene escalated into a shootout between the hotel security guards and the assailants. The exchange of gunfire was enough to put the entire crew into shock, fearful of remaining any longer in Venezuela.
The hotel security guards were able to fend off the attackers who eventually fled. The flight crew decided to return to the airport , accompanied by a police escort for safety. There, they boarded a flight back to Madrid rather than staying the night.
Should Air Europa still be flying to Venezuela?
Air Europa is one of the few remaining airlines that still operate routes to Venezuela. Numerous other airlines have ceased service due to social and political unrest throughout the country. Many Venezuelans are in desperate situations, resorting to looting and armed robbery just to provide for their basic needs.
The Venezuelan economy is in crisis, and disputes over the current presidency has made the country a dangerous place to be. Essential services have been halted, blackouts are persistent in many areas and stores are regularly looted for goods. Caracas is even facing disorder with things as basic as traffic lights and public transportation.
This is the situation that Air Europa crew members are faced with every time they travel to Venezuela. And it’s not the first time there has been a problem as a result. As recently as February 22nd, an airline crew was stranded in the country after local airspace was closed.
Should all airlines stop flying to Venezuela?
One of the key aviation voices in the region is the Spanish Airline Pilots’ Union SEPLA. SEPLA state:
“Air Europa remains the only airline operating commercial flights to Caracas with overnight stays, putting at risk the safety and physical integrity of its crew.”
The organization has issued regular warnings about staying overnight. They have also offered advice on what to do in case of kidnappings, which are something of a regular occurence in Venezuela.
Following the incident, Air Europa have begun to work on some changes to their service. Although they are yet to stop flying to the country, crew will no longer stay overnight. Air Europa crew will now make a mandatory stopover in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic instead.
Do you think all airlines should stop operating in Venezuela in light of the current climate?