Copa Airlines had to cut its flights to Venezuela last week after the Venezuelan Government unilaterally decided to prohibit Panamanian carriers’ access. After eight months of grounded operations, Copa was one of the few airlines in the world to have flights to Venezuela.
What did Venezuela do?
According to the Panamanian Government, Venezuela closed its airspace to Panamanian carriers on December 12. That is, it prohibited flights to the only Panamanian airline operating in Venezuela: Copa Airlines. Air Panama only flies domestic routes.
Before that, Copa Airlines operated three weekly flights from Tocumen International Airport to Venezuela. It started flying to Caracas on November 24 and was looking to add Valencia and Maracaibo shortly.
Now, it is uncertain when Copa Airlines will resume its flights to Venezuela. In a statement, Copa Airlines said,
“By disposition of the Government of Venezuela, all Copa Airlines flights in the routes Panama-Caracas/Caracas-Panama are canceled indefinitely, starting on December 13, 2020. We deeply regret the inconveniences of this measure, taken outside of the Company’s control. The affected passengers can seek their reimbursement in copa.com.”
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But why did Venezuela close its airspace?
Currently, Venezuela is only allowing flights from four more countries besides Panama. It is allowing connectivity from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, and Iran, according to the Civil Aviation National Institute in Venezuela (INAC).
Panama’s Tocumen International serves as a hub-and-spoke model, which could have significantly helped Venezuela resuming some sort of connectivity after the COVID-19 crisis.
For many Venezuelans stranded abroad, Panama was one of the only hubs they had to get back home due to several airlines’ most extensive offer. Still, INAC decided to forbid Copa’s operations.
The Panamanian government shed more light on the Venezuelan decision.
Panama allowed Venezuelan airlines to operate up to nine flights per week between both countries. Meanwhile, Venezuela only allowed three weekly flights to Copa Airlines.
On December 7, Venezuela asked for an increase in the number of weekly flights for its State carriers. In response, the Panamanian government asked for reciprocity. Panama claimed that Venezuela should accordingly increase Copa’s weekly flights.
“However, on December 12, 2020, Venezuela unilaterally canceled, without previous announcement or justification, the three weekly flights of the Panamanian carrier.”
In response to this measure, Panama denied access to Venezuelan carriers. Panama said that it would not allow Venezuelan connectivity until Copa Airlines receives equal treatment.
Are other carriers affected?
Copa Airlines wasn’t the only airline to be affected by the dispute between Panama and Venezuela.
According to El Carabobeño, two Venezuelan airlines stopped flying between both countries.
One was Laser Airlines, which announced that it had canceled flights on December 12, 15, 19, and 22.
The other is Turpial Airlines, a Venezuelan airline that operates from the city of Valencia.
Yesterday, Laser Airlines operated the last flight between Panama and Caracas for the time being. Flight QL2951, onboard a McDonnell Douglas MD8, departed from Panama with 144 passengers.
What do you think of Venezuela’s and Panama’s decision? Let us know in the comments.