The Hi Fly A380 has arrived in Caracas, Venezuela, for the first time ever. Operating on behalf of Caracas based airline Estelar Airlines, the plane arrived yesterday evening to begin its two-week stint for the carrier.
Why do Estelar want the A380?
Estelar hasn’t exactly demanded to fly the A380. Rather, it’s a force of serendipity that their A340, also leased from Hi Fly, needs to undergo some repairs and maintenance. While it’s offline, the A380 from Hi Fly will be taking its place for just a couple of weeks.
The aircraft will operate the London-Madrid-Caracas-Ezeiza route, beginning in Caracas and leaving or Ezeiza, Buenos Aires later today. It is thought that the plane will be ‘helping out’ in South America for around 15 days while the A340 is repaired.
According to Flight Radar, the Hi Fly A380 took off from Madrid at 14:47 (UTC) yesterday. It was in the air for just under eight hours, arriving at Caracas at 23:23 (UTC), in the early evening local time. Arriving at runway 28 at Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetía, the aircraft received a traditional water cannon salute.
7:38 p.m. #Vargas | El Airbus 380 de la línea HiFly es bautizado por bomberos aeronaútivos en la pista 10-28 del Aeropuerto de Maiquetía. Es la primera vez que un avión de su capacidad llega a Venezuela #14Jul – vía @nadeska16 pic.twitter.com/MNIoRrKdBP
— El Pitazo (@ElPitazoTV) July 15, 2019
The A380 in Caracas is an interesting prospect, as Twitter user Enrique Perrella points out there are no gates capable of handling the large aircraft. Do we assume they’ll be boarding using airstairs?
#NEWS: The Airbus A380 will make its first ever visit to Caracas, Venezuela today.
Estelar Airlines has leased the @hifly_airline A380 for its scheduled MAD-CCS service.
Note: there are no gates capable of handling the plane in CCS. pic.twitter.com/fyzgstnBbe
— Enrique Perrella (@Enrique77W) July 14, 2019
A historical arrival
The arrival of the A380 in Caracas was an event of many firsts. It was the first time an A380 would operate for a Latin American airline. It’s the first time a South American domestic route would be operated by an A380. It’s the first time an A380 has ever landed in Caracas and will be the first commercial flight of an A380 to land in Buenos Aires.
Back in 2007, an A380 had previously landed in Buenos Aires. Liveried as an Airbus demonstrator, F-WWJB landed in Argentina as part of a tour and was hosted by Aerolineas Argentinas who, at the time, were considering two A380s for their future fleet. However, according to Aviaci Online, ‘things happened’ and they never took delivery.
Again, in 2012, Argentina welcomed an A380, this time F-WWDD, an Airbus demonstrator. This was another Latin American tour of the aircraft, a bid by Airbus to drum up more orders for the giant jumbo. Sadly, no airlines went on to order it, leaving the region still bare of the world’s biggest jet.
As such, the A380 will be an exciting sight at the two airports in South America, marking yet another arrival at airports unaccustomed to handling such a large plane. Previously, the aircraft appeared in Madagascar, Beja in Portugal and Reunion Island, none of which had been set up for the A380.
Hi Fly previously told Simple Flying that they are “working to increase the number of airports that can accommodate the world’s largest airliner,”, so they clearly have a strategy to help Caracas and Ezeiza receive the plane.
Who is Estelar Airlines?
Estelar Latinoamerica, to give it its full title, is a small Venezuelan airline with a base in Caracas, at Simón Bolívar International Airport. Their fleet consists of just six aging Boeing 737s, plus they already lease an A340 from Hi Fly for longer trips. It was founded in 2009, and for many years served only domestic routes. However, in 2017, it began flying to Madrid, Spain, which was when it first took the A340-300 from Hi Fly.
As of May 2019, the airline flies to seven destinations in Venezuela, as well as to Peru, Chile and Argentina. Long haul, as well as its Madrid route the airline also operates to London, Lisbon, Rome and Miami.
Adding the A380 might not have really been in their plan, but its arrival has caused some excitement in Venezuela. They shouldn’t struggle to fill it, as the top deck with its premium seats and suites will be blocked off, with the economy cabin in use only. Even so, with the FAA’s restriction on Venezuela flights and concerns regarding crew safety, we hope the Hi Fly A380 team stay safe in the country.