Venezuelan Airline Carriers: A History

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Currently, Venezuelan commercial aviation is going through a difficult time. The connectivity with the South American country was scarce even before the pandemic. As of 15 November 2020, only five countries across the world are allowed to connect directly with Venezuela: Mexico, Panama, Dominican Republic, Turkey, and Iran. But, it wasn’t always the case. Let’s dive into the history of Venezuelan commercial aviation.

Conviasa
Conviasa is one of the most famous Venezuelan airlines; it appeared in 2004. Photo: Orlando Suárez via Wikimedia Commons.

The illustrious beginnings

The first flight in Venezuela happened in 1912. The US pilot, Frank E. Boland, flew its own-built aircraft in Caracas. During the first two decades, Venezuelan aviation was deeply connected with the military. In 1920, the Government launched the first pilot school (owned by the army).

At the end of the 1920s, the Pan American and Charles Lindbergh bought a land strip that served as the first airport in Venezuela. This runway is now the International Airport of Maiquetía. The US airline was trying to seize Latin America’s commercial opportunity, competing directly with many German entrepreneurs that launched airlines across the region. But the first proper commercial airline in Venezuela was of French creation. This company, called Aéropostale, was bought by the Venezuelan Government and exists today as Aeropostal Alas de Venezuela. According to Planespotters.net, Aeropostal currently has a fleet of two McDonnell Douglas MD-80s.

In 1943, Pan American Airways and Mexicana de Aviación helped create another historic Venezuelan carrier, Avensa. Unfortunately, Avensa stopped flying in 2004, after going through a painful bankruptcy process.

Throughout its history, Avensa had different types of airplanes like the Convair 580, Boeing 727-100, 200, and 300, as well as Douglas DC-9.

Avensa
Avensa was one of the most successful Venezuelan carriers in the XXth Century. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons.

The first Boeing 747 in Latin America flew in Venezuela

Along with Avensa, maybe the most famous Venezuelan carrier was VIASA (not to mix it up with current airline Conviasa).

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VIASA appeared in November 1960. The Venezuelan Government owned half of the company and private investors the other half. Originally, VIASA started with a fleet of Convair 880 and DC-8 aircraft leased from KLM.

Among its international destinations were New York, New Orleans, Mexico City, Miami, Caracas, Lisbon, Miami, Rome, and Amsterdam. Throughout its history, it flew to 26 countries, plus Puerto Rico and Curazao.

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One of its main highlights was to be the first Latin American carrier to operate the Boeing 747. VIASA leased a Queen of the Skies from KLM in 1972. It used it to connect Caracas with European cities like Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Milan, and Rome. However, the history of the Queen in Venezuela was short-lived, as VIASA returned the 747 at the dawn of 1974.

Unfortunately for VIASA, it had a bad string of awful management. In 1991, Iberia acquired 60% of the ailing company. The Spanish airline paid US$145.5 million. Despite the new owner, the Venezuelan airline never took off and ceased operations in 1997.

VIASA
VIASA had a large fleet that included, at some point, a leased Boeing 747. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons.

A brief history of current Venezuelan airlines

Currently, there aren’t many commercial airlines in Venezuela. Besides Aeropostal, the country’s most important carriers are LASER Airlines, Avior Airlines, and Conviasa.

LASER Airlines launched operations in 1994. It currently has a fleet of 12 Douglas MD-80s, according to Planespotters.net.

Avior Airlines also launched operations in 1994 and has a fleet of 10 aircraft with an average age of 32.7 years. It operates Boeing 737-200 and Boeing 737-400 aircraft.

Finally, Conviasa started flying in 2004. It has the largest fleet among the Venezuelan airlines, with 20. It operates one Airbus A319, two A340s, one Boeing 737, and 16 Embraer ERJ-190s.

Have you flown with any Venezuelan airline? How was it? Let us know in the comments.

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