American Airlines: We’re the Only Ones Left Flying to Venezuela So It’s All Ours!

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not wrong at all. It’s a lifeline between Miami’s 400,000+ Venezuelan ex-pats and their home country.

  2. If I were AA I sure wouldn’t be boasting that it’s highly profitable. The Venezuelan government will surely find ways to extract more out of AA after hearing this.

  3. @02nz indeed! See the difference between the VP and the CEO answer!
    CEO We ‘think’ it works for us vs. VP we are making so much money in this…

  4. Caracas has never stopped being profitable for AA.

    Sure, the country has gone deeper into hell these last 5 years but once they decided to stop selling in bolivares and stick with foreign currency they saw the half-full planes were still worth the trouble.

    Crew complained about the safety situation a few years ago and the arrangement to not have crew (or planes) overnight has become a very happy medium for all.

    AA also employs their own staff for ground operations so for years AA has been the “safest” airline to fly with, knowing the full contents of your bags (mostly food nowadays) will make with you.

    About ~6 years ago I was in the AC in CCS and overhead an AA executive (in town to supervise) talking to a local manager…his words were along the lines of: “CCS is our baby, no matter how bad things get here we will never leave voluntarily” and that was before Maduro was even a candidate.

    They’re not the only international airline, though. Copa is still flying to Venezuela, besides Caracas and Maracaibo (MAR) like AA, they also have Valencia (VLN). Probably 15-25% more seats to Venezuela than AA, right now.

    As things stand, if you don’t have a US visa and you need to travel to the Americas Copa is the only international airline that can take you there…unless you rather boomerang to Europe for it.
    Thing got ugly fast when Copa had to suspend operations for a few weeks earlier this year…no way out.

    I left a comment here in 2014 that may worth digging out. How airlines profited BIG TIME for years in Venezuela…even while they were still selling tickets in local currency.

    I’ll come back to add it as a separate comment once I find it.

  5. @ray there are water shortages too 😛 and people cant afford to buy bidets either.

  6. Another example that Socialism works. I hope the DNC picks Caracas for their 2020 presidential convention.

    Since AA pledged not to fly illegals for US (Dept of Homeland Security), I’m sure they’ll have no issues flying Demo-Sicialists delegates

  7. Yes, toilet paper was a bad example of basic household goods. At this point, it has become a luxury item. Now, pretty much the only basic household goods are food and clean water.

  8. @Bk@OAK, don’t be such a dick(tator). Why is it that the right wing always holds up the examples of where a dictator has looted a country under the banner of socialism. Just because someone says they are a socialist, does not mean they are. Perhaps you would be happy if the left held up Russia or Turkey as great examples of capitalism. Oh, I forgot for a moment, Russia is the right’s friend.
    If you truly want to compare socialism to capitalism, do a comparison of successful socialist countries such as Sweden and Norway to your favorite capitalist country. You probably won’t want to do that, because the US doesn’t come off very well in such comparisons. Higher levels of poverty, shorter life expectancy, higher maternal and infant mortality, and a much less educated and happy population as a whole.

  9. @farnorthtrader – Scandinavia is far less socialist than you think. But I’ll bite.

    Danish-Americans have a substantially higher living standard than Danes in Denmark. The same is true for Swedish-Americans and Finnish Americans. Even Norwegian Americans have a higher standard of living than those who stay in Norway, despite the huge oil wealth there. It’s hard to argue that Scandinavian policies lead to greater success than US policies.

    Danish American per capita income is over $70,000, 40% higher than the US as a whole, again suggesting there’s something about the people and culture that leads them to succeed.

    If there’s something to learn from Scandinavians it’s likely cultural and not policy related.

  10. @farnorthtrader

    “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” -Margaret Thatcher

    Re you astute views of Norway and Sweden-

    “Higher levels of poverty, shorter life expectancy, higher maternal and infant mortality, and a much less educated and happy population as a whole.”

    Chalk that up to them being flooded by African and Middle Easterner migrants: aka give-me-grints.

    Commentary Magazine, Times of London, crime stays in Sweden for 2017-
    Shootings: 320
    Murders: 110
    Rapes: 7’226 (up 10% from 2016)

    36% if Swedish woman reported feeling unsafe.

    PS- Not a right wing.

  11. HAHA, you can call Scandanavia communist for all I care. Its still so far ahead of the USA in quality of like its scary.

  12. @Gary and @BK@OAK,

    You are right Gary, for much of the world, the nordic countries would be modestly socialist, however, from the perspective of the US (particularly the right wing in the US), which regards Canada and the Democrats as socialist, they are very socialist. Government supplied health care, prescriptions, higher education and retirement income put them in the socialist category for most economists.
    Gary, you have suggested that Scandinavian Americans have a higher standard of living than those that stay behind, however, is it a a higher standard of living or higher incomes, because you then quote income statistics? Absolute income levels are higher in the US, but income is not an indicator of success, particularly absolute incomes. If you have to spend your income on buying a house in a gated community and putting your children in private school and buying health insurance and paying extraordinary amounts to put your children through college in order to approximate the same lifestyle, then you have not gained anything with your higher income. I know whereof I speak. I was one of those that went to the United States to make my fortune and I did so successfully. I doubled my income in about 4 years (in my forties and from an executive level income to start with). I also discovered that my standard of living was no better and, in most ways, worse than in Canada with my previous lower income (and my children had not yet reached college). I was able to live in a relatively safe town with what was considered good public schools, but I paid twice as much rent compared to Canada and the quality of the education was far worse, even with one child that we had to put into a private school.
    Comparing those who have the skills and the financial resources to emigrate with those who stay behind is also not a like for like comparison. While I could move with my MBA and a substantial investment in a business, those I left behind with their high school diplomas or technical schools certificates or bachelor’s degrees and only average levels of savings could not move to the US, so I obviously had a much higher income level and, most likely, standard of living. Even the motivation for those who move to the US is different from those that stay behind. Everyone knows that the US is great for making lots of money, so those that move there are often highly motivated by money, while those that value other things more highly will never go to the US or will return home before long. I would be shocked if the people who do move to the US didn’t make a lot more money, there would be little reason for them to make the move otherwise.
    So BK (does that stand for bankrupt?), you say that you are not right wing but you think that the democrats are socialists who should be sent to Venezuela? Sure, you’re not right wing. And you blame crime on people that are different from you. While that doesn’t make you right wing, it sure does make you a racist.
    And you have all of those statistics backwards. It is the US that has higher levels of poverty (highest in the developed world), higher levels of infant and maternal mortality (highest in the developed world), shorter life expectancy (pretty much the lowest in the developed world, with the exception of some eastern european countries) , and less educated and less happy population. It is true that the US has among the highest average incomes, however, the people of the US seem to gain no benefit from that.
    I notice that you go into crime statistics (not sure that this has anything to do with socialism versus capitalism, but whatever). It kind of went without saying, but yes, the US also has far worse crime, despite spending far more on police and prisons:

    Sweden 110, US 17,250 (2016)
    Sweden 320, US approximately 110,000
    Rape statistics are not comparable in different countries due to differing definitions of rape and different levels of reporting and/or prosecution.

    This is fun, what else have you got for me?

  13. @farnorthtrader. I will bite in a different way. Chavez was an ideologue that came from a working class family. He loved the people of Venezuela and was trying to redistribute wealth for the good of the people. He believed the socialism would bring a better future (like many intellectuals around the world). Unfortunately, redistribution of wealth requires a police state and leads to poverty for everyone. That is what has happened in Venezuela. One cannot whitewash the failures of socialism in Venezuela by calling Chavez names. Socialism does not work, even with best intentions. And Venezuela is an typical example.

  14. On AA. It should be noted that if you are Venezuelan and you have family that still lives there, you hare happy that some airline flies there, no matter the cost.

  15. Most of you morons need to take a basic course in economics to understand wealth distribution across the globe. Jeez the amount of stupidity is staggering. You are not Trump so you cannot make up shit.

  16. @other just saying, again, Chavez can say that he wanted to redistribute income to the poor (it gets you elected) but he ended up redistributing it from the rich to his own pockets. That is not a socialist. As evidenced by the many successful socialist economies (or mixed economies that lean socialist), socialism does not require a police state. Dictatorship requires a police state, fascism requires a police state, socialism most definitely does not require a police state. The US, among developed countries, would be the most capitalist, least socialist, yet, based on police and prison statistics and military spending, the closest to a police or militarist state.
    In countries like Venezuela, where the pie is not very big to start with, no matter what system you use, there is not going to be enough for everyone to live comfortably, so you get to choose between having a few extremely comfortable people and many very poor people, or everyone being not very comfortable. Chavez and Madura chose the first and replaced the few rich capitalists with a small rich circle around them. And then the oil market collapsed and there wasn’t anything for anyone.

  17. It’s just an all around sad situation. Maybe toilet paper isn’t as necessary as clean water, but it’s definitely something we all need.

  18. @Farnorthtrader. I really hate arguing with left wingers. They do not know what they are talking about, they mix up fact and massively expansive opinion, and they are arrogant.
    (1) Chavez was a patriot. He did try to redistribute. Typical liberal, shooting off your mouth without knowing anything. Moreover, I am willing to bet you were singing his praises 10 years ago.
    (2) You are wrong about the oil markets. Oil prices were between $15/b to $20/b when Chavez came to power. He took over the oil companies to redistribute. The Venezuelans with skills fled the country. His mismanagement drove the exploration and production into the ground. The rise of oil prices covered his mismanagement. Oil prices fell to around $30/barrel in 2016, but that is still above the price when Chavez came to power. And prices have since recovered to around $70/b. Right now oil prices are going up because Venezuelan is tanking due to mismanagement.
    (3) Due to oil wealth, Venezuela was one of the wealthiest countries in South America. They had a large middle class and educated upper class. there is no reason that people in the country could not have been comfortable. The pie was big. Nationalizing the means of production, reduced the size of the pie dramatically. As they tried to fix it, it got worse. Right now the economy is in collapse. Your statement “where the pie is not very big to start with” is wrong. Shooting off your mouth again without knowing anything.

    @Farnorthtrader. “As evidenced by the many successful socialist economies (or mixed economies that lean socialist), socialism does not require a police state.” Is this what they teach you in Canadian schools. I cannot be bothered even to untangle it.

    BTW: I was laughing when Trudeau was saying that Canada is USA biggest ally. I have been going to Canada my whole life, and I have yet to meet a single Canadian that was willing to defend any American. I think they must teach anti-Americanism in school. How much does Canada spend on National defense, about 1% of GNP. It is nice to have the Americans ships around to defend territorial waters. Did not Russia just claim all the oil in the Arctic sea. LOL: I am sure the Mounties could defend it.

  19. Parker is considering offering only basic economy, at full fare prices, to Venezuela. And to conserve toilet paper he is removing the lavs.

  20. Really, Chavez was a patriot? How did his family end up owning more than 100,000 acres of the most productive land in Venezuela (including a plantation that friends of ours owned prior to his ascension). How did they end up with more than 550 million dollars in liquid assets shortly after his death, while the rest of the country’s people starved? Some inconvenient facts for you.

    Yes, Venezuela was among the most affluent South American countries, however, that still places them far down on the list of world countries and makes the pie considerably smaller than those of the US and Europe.

    Go ahead, untangle how Sweden, Norway, and Denmark either don’t lean socialist or are police states. You can’t untangle it because it is simple straight forward facts. Again, facts are inconvenient for you.

    Canadians do appreciate the US and many of the American people. Canadian soldiers have fought alongside US soldiers more often than any other country. When New York was attacked, canada sheltered your people. What Canada does not appreciate is when the US administration labels the country a security threat.
    The attitude evident in your comments probably explains why your personal reception in Canada is less than friendly.

    You can go ahead and return to your trump bubble now.

  21. @Farnorthtrader: On Sweden.

    Liberal minds lack precision. You have just mentioned three countries, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark as if they are exactly the same. But actually that is three separate arguments. To be honest, I know nothing about Norway and Denmark, except that Norway has $1 Trillion in their sovereign wealth fund, which is way better than the $0 that the USA has in its social security fund. So I put Norway way above USA in terms of responsible politicians.

    Let’s turn to Sweden. The following are the issue with Sweden/USA comparison:
    (1) it is socialist only in the sense that they have high individual taxes and government provided benefits. However, Sweden is very business friendly with low business taxes. In that sense it is a capitalist country.
    (2) High personal taxes have dramatically slowed economic growth in the country.
    (3) The welfare state was put into place after the second world war. At the time, people remembered the great recession and were willing to work hard for everyone else. Unfortunately, that generation has died off. The current generation grew up with cradle to grave benefits and have lost the work ethic. Why work, if you can call in sick, and get paid. Because of this change in culture, the current welfare society in Sweden is probably not sustainable. As a result, Sweden has been moving in the lower tax direction. Eventually, they will have to roll back some of the welfare benefits, because they will not be able to sustain them.
    (4) The non-white Swedes are significantly less well off. The immigration problem in Sweden is crashing the welfare state even faster.
    (5) I do not believe that Swedes have the freedom of speech that the first amendment guarantees in the United States. [For that matter, Canada also does not respect free speech as much as the USA]
    (6) As was cited by others above, Swedish people do quite well in other countries. This tends to support the idea that their success is not about the welfare state, but about the culture of the people themselves.
    (7) Sweden is a tiny country compared to the USA with (before immigration) as single culture. The fact that it might work in Sweden, does not mean it would work in the multicultural USA.
    (8) Sweden, like all of Europe, relies on the USA to defend them. Saves Sweden a lot of money The USA puts $700 billion annually into NATO. [In fact, you criticized USA for that, citing that as evidence of being a police state. That is like about 70% of the deficit. I still support NATO, but that number is eye opening.]

    To conclude, Sweden has all sorts of problems, its welfare state is not sustainable, its problems with non-whites are huge, it does not pay for its own defense, and its example probably would not be a good fit for the USA, yet you lefties paint it as some kind of Utopia, to justify free medical care, free college, universal income….and so on.

  22. @Farnorthtrader. I am not defending Chavez. The left wing like Michael Moore, Shaun Penn, and Joseph P Kennedy slobbered over Chavez for being a man of the people. Even Barack Obama was supportive of Chavez on many occasions. I am sure there was a day when you supported him too.

    Chavez drove the most talented people out of Venezuela. He mismanaged that oil business. The heavy oil fields in Venezuela need constant maintenance. It will take a decade before many of the fields will be returned to their previous production. He impoverished the people. Back when you lefties were supporting him, I thought he was a disaster like Castro.

    But the whole argument that Chavez was not a socialist and not a man of the people is blatantly false. Even though like most socialists, he did manage to enrich himself.

  23. @Farnorthtrader. “explains why your personal reception in Canada is less than friendly.” Cannot get anything right can you. Actually, I do fine in Canada. I love Canada and Canadians. Given your rant against the USA, I thought I would tease you a little. USA USA Go USA! Oh, say can you see, By the dawn’s early light…..

    Farnorthtrader said: “You can go ahead and return to your trump bubble now.” Actually this has nothing to do with Trump. However, you can go back to your flag burning. Maxine Waters, your gal, has one every day in front of her office.

  24. Guys, try to imagine pure capitalism and pure socialism on a spectrum, rather than being a binary system. No country is at either extreme — even the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China never got to a pure socialistic system. The US isn’t even terribly close to pure capitalism. The largest percentage of our federal budget goes to social entitlement programs — social security and medicare. Think about that: the largest piece of the pie is money collected by government in order to redistribute to our citizens. The US is less socialistic than the Scandinavian countries in many regards, to be sure, but even with Trump pushing towards more laissez-faire policies, the US government still plays a heavy role in regulation

  25. I sometimes shop at IKEA and I’ve owned a lot of Saabs and a Volvo but I’m not vacationing in Venezuela anytime soon. Even on a first class AA award. Besides I bet AA isn’t flying lay flats on 77Ws there. Trump’s fault no doubt 🙂

  26. @Other Just Saying
    Thank you for your well articulated posts. Please keep them up.

    The Alinsky tactics of the alt-left (fascists), progressives, socialists, socialist-democrats, …are to yell down, scream profanities, troll posts, with insipid distractions and falsehoods., and name calling.

    Question remains: why is AA supporting the Socialst Chavez-Maduro regime?

  27. @Farnorthtrader: I have always found canadians to be American hating a-holes; thanks for proving me right yet again. Always willing to sell yourselves for the US dollar though, and trash talk while you are doing it….

  28. I wonder if AA hires/will hire ex-military contractors to provide security as the Venezuelan situation continues to deteriorate.

    All Maduro can do is invoke the classic “us vs. them” boogeyman scenario until he is deposed via revolution or invasion.

  29. I never read such stupidity then people who support trump no matter what he says or do. First of all Chavez was not for the people. Him and maduro lied and brained washed most in Venezuela just like Trump is doing to his followers. But afterwards people dug up a lot of history between Chavez and Maduro. They were nothing but criminal thugs. They were nobodies and jumped at an opportunity to overthrow and change Venezuela forever and get rich from it.

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