CARACAS — Today, Panamanian flag carrier, Copa Airlines, celebrated its 20th Anniversary of operations in Venezuela with a special event, declaring their commitment to continue offering services to the troubled country.
Venezuela has suffered a massive exodus of airlines, with ten global carriers axing their daily services to the country in the last six years. International organizations have also fled away because of the prohibitive, unsafe, and tense political climate in the country.
Four days ago, on December 8, IATA announced the closure of its Venezuelan offices. Effective January 31, 2018, all IATA operations carried out in Venezuela will be transferred to Panama.
However, Copa Airlines seems to be the one carrier that continues to bet in the afflicted country.
Since 1997, Copa Airlines has flown millions of Venezuelan passengers, connecting them from Caracas (CCS), Maracaibo (MAR), and Valencia (VLN) across its 75 destinations in 31 countries in the American continent.
A COMMITMENT TO THE VENEZUELAN MARKET
The ceremony was held at the Eurobuilding Hotel in Caracas, with the presence of various regional and international media representatives and distinguished guests related to the Venezuelan aviation industry.
Christophe Didier, Vice President Global Sales at Copa Airlines, opened the ceremony with a few remarks. “It’s a pleasure to be here in Caracas to continue celebrating Copa’s 70th anniversary, and the 20th of our operations in Venezuela.”
Didier, a former Delta, Etihad, and Air France executive, is now part of the Global Sales team at Copa Airlines. He told Airways that Copa’s commitment to the Venezuelan market is real, despite other airlines leaving the country.
“On December 6, 1997—20 years ago—Copa’s first flight took off from Maiquetia International Airport to Panama. Since then, Copa has served the city of Caracas and its passengers,” Didier said.
Roberto Pulido, the airline’s General Manager in Venezuela, admitted that this was an “achievement product of our effort and commitment to serving Venezuela.”
This commitment is indeed palpable. While most airlines have left Venezuela, international seat availability has dropped by 87% since 2008.
According to the Venezuelan Airline Association (ALAV), Copa has only adjusted its capacity by 35% during the massive airline exodus.
Pulido reassured Copa will remain in Caracas “operating profitably” with thrice-daily flights, as well as on its daily routes to Maracaibo and Valencia.
“It’s an honor to connect the country with the rest of the world through Hub of The Americas, which is certainly the most important starting point in the American continent,” he added.
OPERATING IN A DIFFICULT CLIMATE
Pulido and Didier both told Airways that operations in Venezuela are “safe and normal,” which contradicts what Avianca’s President, Hernán Rincón, said when the Colombian carrier abruptly ceased flying to the country.
“After 60 years of service in Venezuela, Avianca regrets this difficult decision, but our duty is to warrant the security of the operations,” said Avianca’s President in July.
Avianca flight crews allegedly received threats of significant retaliation from the Venezuelan National Institute of Civil Aviation (INAC) when the carrier hinted that its daily flights between CCS and Bogota would be suspended.
However, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Copa Airlines, which promised to continue serving the Venezuelan market with a reliable, on-time operation.
The airline’s executives didn’t talk about the fact that Venezuela continues to owe international carriers more than $3,8 billion.
The country’s regime has failed to reimburse airlines for ticket sales in local currency, forcing most to write-off that debt and fly away from Venezuela.
RELIEVING VENEZUELAN PASSENGERS
Copa’s commitment to the Venezuelan market is a relieving point for the country, which day by day, continues its path into isolation.
Yesterday, the CCS Airport’s administration released a statement that jet fuel will no longer be available for all aircraft because of supply issues.
Carriers like American Airlines stopped refueling in CCS because of such limitations, and Copa Airlines might follow suit.
During the event, the Panamanian Star Alliance Member shared that beginning in January 2018, every Boeing 737-800 in their fleet will feature an exclusive selection of independent Latinamerican movies, due to its partnership with the International Film Festival – Panama (IFF). The airline flies both aircraft types on its fleet—737 and Embraer E190—to Caracas on a daily basis.
Copa Airlines celebrated its 70th anniversary in August 2017 with an exclusive event held in its Maintenance Hangar in Tocumen International Airport in Panama, where company executives recalled how in 1947 a group of Panamanian entrepreneurs, with a bright vision of the future, left Pan Am to create Copa Airlines.