Northwest Airlines executives used to say about the Upper Midwest, “it’s cold, it’s dark, nobody goes there.. but it’s all ours!” And of course now it all belongs to Delta, more or less.
Venezuela as a country is completely falling apart, a fraudulent Presidential election, mass shortages and rampant crime, and inflation that reportedly hit 5,220% early in the year.
The government effectively stole billions of dollars from airlines, refusing to allow them to take their funds out of the country. The carrier stuck with the biggest loss was American Airlines. As a result many carriers began pulling out of the country in 2014. Those that stayed face tremendous difficulty, from military robbers to crumbling infrastructure at and around the airport.
The National Guard pulls suitcases off of flights to loot them. Flight crews get robbed by bandits. It’s not enough to stay near the airport, or hire bodyguards. Airlines complain they’re getting contaminated fuel. Airlines fly crews out of the country to overnight, and try to refuel elsewhere as well.
Thanks to price controls on domestic flights, people wait at airports for days hoping to get on a flight.
United and Delta are out. So are myriad other airlines. American Airlines though continues to fly to Venezuela, and last year said that Caracas and Maracaibo “meet the highest standards safety and security.”
An employee asked about their Venezuela service and airline CEO Doug Parker said, “We’ve gotten Venezuela where we think it works for us.”
And Vasu Raja, Vice President Planning, chimed in:
Indeed not only does it work for us, it’s one of our most profitable countries in the world actually. We sell almost all of our money in US dollars, or Euro, in fact 100% of it is outside Venezuelan Bolivars.
And by being the only carrier that is there we’re the only people who can offer customers any way into and out of the country. And those can be people who do business in Venezuela and need to commute out to get just basic household items and things like that. It’s multinational companies that still have business in Venezuela, but actually base their employees in Miami.
So there’s any number of things but we make a good living on it. We have no plans to stop serving Venezuela, and in fact for a couple of the peak days this winter we’ll actually add a trip in because demand is just so high there. We do quite well flying it.
People are taking American Airlines international flights in order to buy “basic household items” (e.g. “toilet paper”). Let that sink in for a moment.