FAA Downgrades Venezuela’s Safety Rating

In the latest turn of events, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has said that Venezuela does not comply with basic safety standards for aviation. The administration issued a statement on Friday (13th December 2019) about concerns over Venezuela’s safety procedures and consequently downgraded the country’s safety rating.

FAA Downgrades Venezuela’s Safety Rating
The FAA has downgraded Venezuela’s safety rating meaning American air carriers cannot fly to the country. Photo: tjdarmstadt via Wikimedia Commons

Escalating issues

Earlier this year in May, the FAA issued an emergency order which prohibited U.S flights into Venezuela. The regulation was imposed after mounting political violence in the country which the FAA deemed to be unsafe. However, as the order remains in place, the FAA has now downgraded the safety rating for Venezuela from Category 1 to Category 2.

FAA Downgrades Venezuela’s Safety Rating
Political violence resulted in an earlier emergency order from the FAA. Photo: VOA via Wikimedia Commons

All U.S. operations to Venezuela ceased earlier this year soon after the unrest. American Airlines was the last airline to cancel its service to the South American country but, pending FAA confirmation, airlines like American could have returned to Venezuela. However, this latest development dampens that possibility in the short-term.

In the press statement, the FAA said:

“The FAA has determined the Venezuelan regime no longer complies with international aviation safety standards. The FAA recently conducted an extensive review based on safety-related information currently available, and determined that a change in the IASA category is required.”

Consequently, the FAA has now downgraded the IASA category, or International Aviation Safety Assesment category, by one. This means that the country does not meet International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards.

According to this assessment, Venezuela as a whole produces an anemic offering of safety. This could include record-keeping, inspections, and resolutions for safety concerns but the specific safety violations, however, have not been disclosed.

What does this mean?

The news is certainly unfortunate for a country that is hampered economically. The lack of U.S tourists certainly won’t help it to prosper. However, there are currently no U.S airlines offering services to Venezuela and there hasn’t been since the initial emergency order from the FAA.

Though the FAA deems Venezuela unsafe and prohibits U.S air carriers landing there, aircraft can still fly over the Venezuelan airspace. Permitted that they are 26,000 feet above land. It seems for U.S airlines, Venezuela’s new categorization is relatively harmless.

However, for the Venezuelan economy, the sanction signifies much greater trouble. To begin with, the country will be hardpressed for economic prosperity from incoming U.S tourists. Quite simply, there will no longer be operations between the U.S and Venezuela. But there’s more.

FAA Downgrades Venezuela’s Safety Rating
Airlines like flag carrier Conviasa will no longer be able to expand within the U.S. Photo: The Photographer via Wikimedia Commons

The restriction does not exempt Venezuelan carriers from operating in the U.S. According to the FAA, carriers to whom the Category 2 extension applies will be able to operate as normal. That might seem to be good news on the surface but in the long term, it means that there will be no allowance for expanding networks or service frequency.

In addition, the order prevents any Venezuelan airlines who had wanted to operate in the United States from doing so for as long as the Category 2 rating applies. That could mean significant fiscal damage.

How disastrous is Category 2?

Venezuela is also not alone in its Category 2 silo. In fact, just last month, Malaysia also had its safety rating demoted. That’s alongside other countries like Costa Rica and Bangladesh who have also accrued the Category 2 sanction. Whilst the downgrade is certainly a kick in the teeth for Venezuela and any potential U.S carriers, the rating is not a permanent categorization.

As is evident, the rating does not mean that operations have to cease entirely. They’re just on temporary freeze. And, what’s more, Venezuela will be able to improve its status if it so desires. There is no perenniality when it comes to the FAA ratings.

If Venezuela is able to improve its safety standards and permeate its safety deficit then the FAA will review the rating and would be able to grant Category 1 back to the country. The question is; will this be enough to make Venezuelan aviation better its safety operation?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!