As one of the last international big airlines flying to Venezuela, Air France has now pulled the plug on its Paris to Caracas flight. Blaming COVID-19 as the reason, the airline is looking to suspend its service for at least two years.
Air France has been flying to Venezuela for 68 years, and to say it is pulling out because of COVID-19 is a bit of a stretch to believe. Since the coronavirus emerged in Europe during the spring, France has seen 31,661 deaths, while only 591 people have died due to the virus in Venezuela.
Controls and Corruption
The real reason Air France is looking to leave what was once a route for its supersonic Concorde is currency controls and corruption. When the oil price dropped, the Venezuelan Bolivar became almost worthless, forcing people to pay for goods and services in either Colombian pesos or American dollars. And it is not just the oil price that has caused the country to collapse but the mismanagement of the Venezuelan economy by the Maduro government.
In Venezuela, the government acts as a broker between foreign businesses and owes airlines and an estimated $4 billion. The chance of any other them ever seeing any of that money would depend on Maduro’s government losing its grip on power.
Air France met with the government
According to the aviation website, Live And Let’s Fly, Venezuelan media reported earlier in the week that Air France was pulling out because they could not make a profit on the route. In the past, President Nicolás Maduro has made it clear that any airline which stopped flying to Simón Bolívar International Airport (CCS) would not be welcomed back.
To avoid dealing with this, a delegation from Air France met with government officials to stress that Air France was suspending the route and not terminating it.
#24Sep || 3/3 Sin embargo, @airfrance manifestó sus intenciones firmes de continuar realizando operaciones en nuestro país, las cuales se efectuaban ininterrumpidamente desde hace 68 años, una vez logren solventar su situación ocasionada por esta grave pandemia. pic.twitter.com/9bqPfXAk8Y
— MG. Juan Teixeira Díaz (@JuanTeixeiraD) September 25, 2020
President of the National Institute of Civil Aeronautics in Venezuela, Juan Teixeira confirmed the news via Twitter, stating:
“Air France expressed its firm intentions to continue carrying out operations in our country, which have been carried out uninterruptedly for 68 years, once they manage to solve their situation caused by this serious pandemic.”
Eight airlines still fly to Caracas
With the departure of Air France, only eight carriers offer flights to Simón Bolívar International Airport. These are the following airlines:
As the situation worsens in Venezuela, the airlines that remain may have to start worrying about their operations’ safety. While Air France may have said that they intend to return, they perhaps forgot to add after President Nicolás Maduro is no longer in power. While perhaps even more far-fetched is the possibility of an American invasion since they have labeled Maduro a narco-terrorist.
You might remember that the official justification for the invasion of Panama was because its leader Manuel Noriega had turned Panama into a center for money laundering and a transit point for drugs. While Russia and China still back Maduro, this probably won’t happen. However, you never know.
Why do you think Air France has stopped flying to Caracas? Please let us know what you think in the comments.