American Airlines is the sole remaining US carrier serving Venezuela and there are few other airlines flying in and out of the country as well. As the nation has fallen apart, with mass shortages, rampant crime, and inflation over 5000%, American Airlines had found their Venezuela routes extremely profitable — because there was so little air service left.
With flight crews getting robbed by bandits airlines fly crews out of the country rather than overnighting, and try to refuel elsewhere as well.
Now as Nicolas Maduro struggles to hang onto power after declaring himself the victor in a fraudulent election, lawlessness has worsened further. Flight attendants traveling to the country are being given advice on how to avoid kidnappings. (It no longer makes sense to target locals, conditions are so bad that even crime no longer pays though what’s left of Maracaibo businesses were ransacked during recent blackouts.)
Now The Forward Cabin reports that the pilots union at American Airlines is telling their members they should refuse to fly assigned trips to the country,
In light of the U.S. State Department’s Level 4 Travel Advisory issued this week regarding Venezuela, APA President CA Dan Carey directs all APA pilots to cease flight operations into Venezuela. In its Travel Advisory, the U.S. Department of State cites “crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.” The Travel Advisory also notes that “Violent crime, such as homicide, armed robbery, kidnapping, and carjacking, is common,” and recommends that U.S. residents “traveling in Venezuela should depart Venezuela.” The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has suspended operations and has withdrawn diplomatic personnel from Venezuela, and is not providing any consular services.
Until further notice, if you are scheduled, assigned, or reassigned a pairing into Venezuela, refuse the assignment by calling your Chief Pilot or IOC Duty Pilot (phone number redacted) Inform them that you are refusing the assignment in accordance with the direction of the U.S. Department of State.
APA will provide follow-on information as soon as it becomes available.
To reiterate: Do not accept any trips to Venezuela.
Captain Dennis Tajer
Allied Pilots Association (APA)
APA Communications Committee – Chairman
APA Industry Analysis Committee
This is a real conundrum. For Venezuelans able to get out of the country American Airlines is a lifeline. However conditions appear to have continued to deteriorate in the country. At what point is it no longer safe for airline employees to travel there, even to immediately turn back around?
It will be interesting to see how long American is able to sustain its remaining Venezuela schedule if the crisis continues.