Venezuela is Plunging into Chaos: Which Airlines Still Fly?

American Airlines is the sole remaining US carrier serving Venezuela. Panama’s Copa has the most flights, and Air France has Paris service six times weekly. Caribbean Airlines flies an ATR72 three times a way. Aruba Airlines has daily service to Maracaibo. Cubana flies twice weekly to Caracas.

As the country 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.

Thanks to price controls on domestic flights, passengers waited at airports for days hoping to get on a flight. The National Guard pulls suitcases off of flights to loot them. Airlines complain they’re getting contaminated fuel.

With flight crews getting robbed by bandits airlines fly crews out of the country to overnight, and try to refuel elsewhere as well.

Events in Venezuela are coming to a head, and so far American, Copa, and Air France continue to show their flights operating — although US diplomats have been given 72 hours to leave Venezuela as Nicolas Maduro struggles to hang onto power, severing relations with the United States.

Maduro’s re-election has been declared illegitimate by the National Assembly, so he’s taken his swearing in at the nation’s Supreme Court instead. Following the law though the country’s opposition leader (and head of the Congress) is officially – and has declared himself – interim President pending new elections.

Over a dozen nations have recognized this new government, including Argentina; Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; Honduras; Guatemala; Paraguay; Panama; and Peru in Latin America along with Canada, France, and the United States (while Cuba expressed support for the existing regime).

Ultimately the fate of Venezuela – which has been largely in decline for 20 years since socialist Huge Chavez was first elected President there – will depend on whether Maduro can continue to control the nation’s military to crush popular uprising as they did in 2017. So far the head of the military is still backing Maduro.

Maduro says the opposition is attempting to stage a coup, though strictly speaking since the Assembly declared his re-election invalid he’s the one seeking to overturn the process and use the military to do it.

Though Venezuela’s law and the rest of Latin America is on one side, and Maduro only has the military as backing to crush popular uprising, some in the United States appear to be inserting themselves where they don’t belong — itching for an unnecessary fight, and feeding the narrative that the U.S. is somehow behind this.

Hopefully the situation resolves peacefully, for the benefit of the Venezuelan people, and over time more airlines are even able to come back to again service the country.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. […] In both cases, Venezuela faces one additional challenge: its isolation. Most foreign airlines have stopped flying to the country, some in response to unpaid debts from the Venezuelan government, others citing the safety of their […]


  1. So after being on Trump’s BFF list, Maduro is thrown under the bus. Nice little distraction from his troubles at home I suppose.

  2. TURKISH Airlines (TK) is still serving Caracas CCS from Istanbul via Havanna HAV, 3x week.
    Just to make the list complete.

  3. So far, I am appalled by the lack of coverage and understanding that the US media has displayed today regarding the situation in Venezuela. Folks, this is a big deal — our newspapers should not be leading with the latest political spat between Pelosi and Trump. Venezuela IS the big story.

    I got suspicious when Mike Pence wrote an unusual op-ed piece this week in the WSJ basically calling for Maduro’s ouster. This is right before a mass rally today against Maduro in Caracas in which Guaido declares himself President and — minutes later — all the big Western Hemisphere nations (except the now left-leaning Mexico) immediately recognize him as the legitimate president of Venezuela.

    Folks, this is not coincidence. There’s obviously a big plan here. I think the US saw an opportunity to finally get rid of Maduro and put together a remarkable hemispheric coalition to do it. I’m guessing there’s more we’re about to see. I would think the coalition has a pledge from at least some elements of the Venezuelan military to assist or at least stand down. And are there any troop movements? I would think there could be some US assets in the region ready to step in along with a multinational force if it becomes necessary.

    If this works, hopefully without substantial bloodshed, this will be the best example of effective international coalition building by the USA since George H W Bush put together a multi-nation army to get Saddam out of Kuwait. I bet some of the media will root against the effort because it would be a huge achievement for Trump.

    In this context, your blog post has better analysis the most of the major media reports I’ve so far seen on this story. The only thing you get wrong is criticizing Rubio. He’s not inserting himself into some place where he doesn’t belong. He’s a consistent champion for democracy in Venezuela.
    Today is the day that all Americans should speak out forcefully in support of the end of the Maduro regime. I’m certain we will hear many other voices joining in this worthy cause.

    As far as airline flights go, I hope this means I can again visit Venezuela and see a country in recovery. But I’m not booking my flight for tomorrow!

  4. Gary said: “Cuba expressed support for the existing regime.” It has been widely reported that Cuba has troops in Venezuela. For the record, I think China and Russia are also supporting the “Maduro” regime. CNBC on December 11, 2018, reported that Russia has sent two nuclear capable bombers to Venezuela. The Valenzuela situation has the potential to be a major problem with nuclear implications.

    Chopsticks said “So far, I am appalled by the lack of coverage and understanding that the US media has displayed today regarding the situation in Venezuela.” I agree. While the mainstream media is busy attacking teenagers with MAGA hats and with ongoing Trump derangement syndrome, they should actually be reporting world problems, at least some of the time.

  5. Don’t worry about Russians, Chinese or Cubans here. They don’t have the resources to do anything in Venezuela. The question is what the Venezuela military does. My guess is the “coalition” includes some of them. I hope Maduro is ousted and I hope the bloodshed is low. But I lived in Miami at the time the Soviet Union collapsed and we all thought that Castro’s days were numbered. So you never know.

  6. @Chopsticks. I have been watching the Venezuelan situation since Hugo Chavez was first elected. At the time, Venezuela was the richest South American country due to massive oil wealth. Do you remember when it was a Venezuelan socialism was a cause celebre? Even Sean Penn went down there. Congressman Joe Kennedy famously received natural gas subsidies from Chavez. Obama made it a point to shake Chavez’s hand in a public meeting. Relatedly, John Kerry stated that the Era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.

    Actually, I agree with Gary: “Hopefully the situation resolves peacefully, for the benefit of the Venezuelan people, and over time more airlines are even able to come back to again service the country.” Venezuela is a beautiful country and I would love to visit it.

  7. @chopsticks – Your points are largely valid, but Trump couldn’t lead a coalition of drunken sailors to a brothel, let alone be involved in the coalition you suggest. Given his extreme penchant for angering allies, there’s no way he would work with the mentioned countries.

  8. the situation came to a head when the Russkys were putting that base on the Venezuelan caribbean island.

    as Walter in the Big Lebowski and GW1 said “this aggression will not stand, man”

    hence the backdoor deal with russia for usa to get out of syria and the israelis overtly attacking syria while they still can with the americans around

    usa leaves syria in russian influence, russia leaves venezuela in usa influence

    i wish the best for venezuela, but they have always had a turbulent history, and the people they bit the hands that fed them when they stole the private factories owned by other nation’s companies.

    Venezuelans pretty much deserve what they got. Almost bibilical, they had prosperity and did not save or invest in other things, they elected communists and tolerated gangs and crime as long as those gangs were loyal to the regime.

    They let rich ones leave with the countries brains and monies. No doubt there will be more turmoil unless the military feels secure with the new regime and USA. Some sort of deal probably will need to be made that is disgusting but probably worth it to secure the regime’s families and export of riches.

    I hope that ABC islands stay safe and that there are US and Dutch/EU battleships nearby

  9. @Christian, Trump may be unable to, but at some point the CIA/State Dept has long standing people working there, and the outcry from the S American countries flooded with migrants as well as bondholders and multinationals who want their money back, as well as Russia and China gaining a foothold in W Hemisphere let alone the obvious starvation and disaster in Venezuela were too much. Monroe Doctrine will never die as long as the defense contractors, CIA and military have any say in it. Do you want foreign bases in the Caribbean?

  10. Somehow seems appropriate that AA flies to Venezuela; they seem made for each other. One’s an incompetently run economic basket case (the other is a South American country).

  11. This is really interesting. Where does Air France cabin crew stay in Caracas? If anything I’d imagine it would be a safety issue if it’s really that chaotic in Venezuela?
    I understand if AA still flies there since they can do a direct turnaround and crew wouldn’t have to sleep overnight but that wouldn’t be the case for longhaul nonstop flights to/from Europe.

  12. chopsticks,

    Venezuela was a basket case for decades even before Chavez became its President. It’s a basket case under Maduro, and it will still be one even if Bolton-on-Trump get their way with a Maduro removal. Venezuela’s a long-pillaged and long-mismanaged state, and it will be that for quite some time to come.

    It’s obvious that your beloved Trump has so much of your love that you desperately want to try to spin growing opposition to Maduro as some kind of Trump victory. It isn’t a Trump victory, and it will not be. The average Venezuelan is just sick of the economic malaise and corruption and it’s showing in this situation. Bolton-on-Trump are just along for the ride, no matter the damage done.

    Given Bolton was all gung-ho about making Iraq into even more of a basket case than it already was and an advocate of the complete obliteration of the Iraqi state under Saddam Hussein, I wouldn’t hold up Bolton-on-Trump’s approach to regime change as a good model of anything but counterproductive and unnecessarily expensive destruction.

  13. Other Just Saying,

    Venezuela was a basket case even on the eve of Chavez getting elected as President; and in many ways it was worse off than Chile, Uruguay and even Argentina at the time too.

  14. @GUWonder the country’s oil revenues peaked in 1998, though, when Chavez became President. The idea that ‘they were a basket case before and after’ misses the way they’ve gotten worse under and because of leadership from Chavez and Maduro

  15. Gary, I’ve read your blog for a long time now and each time Venezuela comes up in the news you take it upon yourself to take cheap shots.

    The title of this post is a prime example. Why not spin a positive title rather than going for the easy click-bait negative one? Especially since what is currently happening in Venezuela is a big deal and needs people support rather than some self-appointed, ego inflated, travel expert to continue tearing them down.

    To directly quote your article: “some in the United States appear to be inserting themselves where they don’t belong.” Maybe you should keep your negative opinions to yourself unless you have something positive and supportive to write about.

  16. Hmm now we are getting reporting about Venezuela? Kinda late to the party on this. There has been a humantarian crisis as millions flee for quite some time now. Gangs wander the streets raping and killing. None of this is remotely new and its kinda pathetic when the media now decides its worth reporting on. People want to sound knowledgeable but the situation as been dire for a long time and it threatens the other countries in the area as a result. Next thing you know the media might write another story about what is going on in yemen!

  17. gleff,

    Inflation in Venezuela was way worse before and after the Chavez Presidency than during the Chavez years.

    The GDP per capita of Venezuela in constant dollars was higher when Chavez died than in the year before he came to power.

    Venezuela in part of the 1950s had a GDP per capita comparable to West Germany at the time but the Venezuela’s economy from thereafter has been a mess, and it’s socio-economic problems a disaster for decades before Chavez rule, during Chavez rule and afterwards.

    Venezuela’s oil revenue peaked when it did for various reasons, including because one of the US’ biggest supplier of oil was Venezuela until
    It wasn’t.

    Venezuela has gotten way worse during the Maduro years than it was during the Chavez years, but the Chavez years weren’t anywhere close to being Venezuela’s worst years — pre-, post, or during Chavez years — by a variety of economic indicators.

  18. @Joao

    Thanks, didn’t know that…but the idea is the same. There are still flights from Lisbon to Caracas twice a week. I just don’t know where the crew stays in that case.

  19. GUWonder said: “The GDP per capita of Venezuela in constant dollars was higher when Chavez died than in the year before he came to power.” It sounds like GuWonder are defending the socialist regime of Chavez. So GUWonder, are you a socialist? Do you support the regime of Castro and Chavez, as being “for the people”? Just curious.

    Nevermind. I guess that is a loaded “when did you stop beating your wife?” type of question. No need to answer.

  20. Other Just Saying,

    Facts matter, even when they may be considered inconvenient to the narrative some may want to peddle.

    While I would argue that Venezuela could have been better off if Chavez was never its President, I would also argue that the US could have been better off if Trump had never been POTUS. But that doesn’t mean I would dismiss the fact that the US financial markets had rallied in a big way for at least part of Trump’s rule as President; just like I wouldn’t dismiss the fact that Venezuela had massive economic problems before, during and after Chavez and that Chavez’s rule didn’t result in the kind of per capita GDP declines and hyperinflation that happened in Venezuela before Chavez’s rule and after Chavez’s rule but not didn’t happen as badly during Chavez’s rule. I would also argue that Chavez is in large part responsible for this Maduro mess. But historical facts matter, even when the facts don’t align so perfectly with your and chopsticks’ Trumpista line.

    The idea that Trump is leading some kind of massive international alliance and should claim credit for Maduro’s being potentially sidelined sooner than later is as laughable as the Bolton-on-Trump idea that toppling Saddam Hussein was necessary to protect the American homeland from terrorists and WMDs.

  21. @GUWonder. You should really learn how to focus your thought and arguments. In your first comment to me about Venezuela, you said it “was a basket case even on the eve of Chavez getting elected as President; and in many ways it was worse off than Chile, Uruguay and even Argentina at the time too.” So to consider your comment, I have to compare and contrast 4 different countries and try to figure out what you meant by “basket case”. In the last comment, you mentioned Trump, Saddam Hussein, Bolton, terrorists, WNDs, and Chopstick’s arguments (which you lumped in with mine), USA economy, hyperinflation at some unknown time, GDP/per capital at some unknown time. In other comments, you brought in other topics. Nobody could possible follow or argue with such a wide range of topics, especially in a blog.

    My viewpoint on Venezuela predates Trump. Trump has nothing to do with this crisis, except the President has to deal with whatever happens in the world, whether he likes it or not.

    I first became interested in Venezuela while doing a number of reports of PDVSA (the national oil company of Venezuela) for work in 1998 the year that Chavez won the Presidential election. Since then I have moved on to other companies and have been following Venezuela though the WSJ, but, of course, that is not the same as analysis. I think that Chavez loved the lower class, but was a socialist. When he took over the country, he started nationalizing industries for the good of the people. At the time, about 50% of the GNP was oil and 70% to 80% was oil related. So he took over the oil industry. The oil engineers and experts that ran PDVSA fled in fear. Moreover, Chavez started jailing people that did not agree with him including in opposing papers. Without oil expertise, Chavez political management of PDVSA caused oil output to fell every year, since oil exploration and development is a high tech endeavor. However, at first, this decline in oil output was masked by rising oil prices increased from about $13 in 1998 when he was elected to $109 in 2012. Oil was still over $100 when he died. Basically he ran the country economically into the ground but his actions were masked by high oil prices. Also, as is common in one person rule, that one person gets really rich, his friends get rich. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. When oil dropped from $100s to high $40s in 2015, Maduro was in big trouble, because Chavez and Maduro had run the oil industry in Venezuela into the ground, and the oil industry will take years to recover. Moreover, they also took over other industries as well with equally catastrophic impact. So now, the country is a mess and it will take years for the country to recover economically, no matter who takes over next. It is really sad to say the least.

  22. Other Just Saying, you claimed this: “I have been watching the Venezuelan situation since Hugo Chavez was first elected. At the time, Venezuela was the richest South American country due to massive oil wealth.”

    I would argue that Venezuela was anything but the richest South American country due to massive oil wealth at the time of Chavez’s election as President.

    It’s quite clear your historical knowledge and familiarity with Venezuela and Latin America in general is lacking, even as your line about Venezuela is the kind of scam narrative used by Bolton-on-Trump over many years.

  23. And yes Chavez did destroy the oil industry and play nasty political games within Venezuela and elsewhere all while taking massive benefit from the increase in global oil prices regardless of the longer term consequences of his ways. That’s in part why I said Chavez is responsible for the Maduro-era economic mess being way worse than even the mess during the Chavez-era. But Venezuela was a basket case for years before Chavez, for the Chavez years and even after. And even before Chavez Venezuela looked like an impoverished basket case of a country when compared to Chile, Uruguay and even Argentina in ways.

    Nigeria’s got a lot of oil wealth too and has got many of the same kind of problems as Venezuela, even as it’s been a lawless capitalist’s dream come true in ways. Welcome to the problems of too much reliance on extractive industries in places with lots of extreme disparities of income and restive populations where politics is an extreme game of trying to take what you can as fast as you can regardless of the longer term impact on the country.

  24. LOL. GUWonder said “Nigeria….problems of too much reliance on extractive industries in places with lots of extreme …” The global “vision” of the self appointed elite is staggering.

    Unfortunately, sometimes people with this type of vision gain power and the results are catastrophic. I think Chavez was a tragic figure due to the vision thing. He loved Venezuela as much as anyone. In his arrogance, he knew what was good for the country and somehow obtained the power to implement it. God complex. Unfortunately, according to Chavez what was good for the country was Robin Hood (anther name on for Socialism, Communism without all the bells and whistles). Instead of saving his country, he drove it into the ground, causing massive uncontrolled poverty. Chavez was like a war or a plague. Many suffered, became sick, or died due to his actions. Moreover, the country continues to suffer. Chavez became the Voldemont of his country. However, I have faith that Venezuela will recover, someday, somehow……… “It is always darkest before the dawn.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *