MIAMI — Venezuelan carrier Estelar launched its newest nonstop service between Caracas (CCS) and Rome (FCO) on Thursday, operated by a chartered Hi Fly Airbus A340-300.
The Venezuelan airline has opened up niche routes aimed to serve markets that have been abandoned by international carriers during the political and economical crisis that has crippled the Venezuelan economy.
Estelar currently operates transatlantic services to Madrid (MAD) three times per week, as well as occasional flights to Buenos Aires (EZE), Lima (LIM), and Santiago (SCL).
The airline also expects to launch nonstop flights between Caracas and New York (JFK), starting on November 29, operated with chartered Eastern Air Lines Boeing 767s.
The Caracas – Rome link was terminated by Alitalia in 2015. The Italian carrier, once, operated flights to CCS with airplanes as big as Boeing 747-200s, sometimes flying via Milan-Malpensa (MXP) to cater for the large Italian diaspora that lived in Venezuela.
Since 2015, however, the Italian/Venezuelan connection was terminated, forcing passengers to reach both countries via a connection in Paris (with Air France), in Lisbon (with TAP), or in Madrid (with Iberia or Air Europa).
Estelar’s weekly service, as explained by the airline’s President, Boris Serrano, is targeted at businessmen who keep their businesses in Venezuela but their families in Italy.
“This nonstop flight will facilitate the connections between the two countries and the many Italian companies that still work in Venezuela,” he said.
“For now, the flight will be mainly dedicated to business customers, waiting for the country to return to being an important tourist destination.”
The weekly service is served by a Hi Fly Airbus A340-300 equipped with 12 seats in First Class, 42 in Business Class and 213 in Economy Class. The all-white plane carries Estelar stickers on the front side of the fuselage.
The route, which has become the airline’s longest, will run every Thursday, departing CCS at 18:20, and arriving in FCO the following morning.
Venezuelan Crisis Deepens
Venezuela is on the verge complete disconnection from the international arena, as its President, Nicolas Maduro, is trying to force foreign carriers to pay for fuel and handling services with his self-proclaimed cryptocurrency, the Petro.
Currently, Venezuela’s hyper-inflation state is estimated to cap at 2,500,000% for the end of the year. The country’s political and economical volatility is the worst possible ground for any airline venture to thrive in.
The geopolitical situation in Venezuela has degraded to a point where even international organizations have been forced to shut down its offices in the country.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced through an internal letter that it decided to leave Venezuela effective on January 31, 2018.
According to the letter, all IATA operations carried out in Venezuela were transferred to Panama, led by David Hernández, IATA’s Director for Central America.
“We’ve evaluated various factors, like the deteriorative weather around the business, [and] the complex social and economic situation in the country. Primarily, considering the fact there are just six operating IATA members’ [airlines] in the country, compared to the 24 that serve in 2014,” stated the Regional Vice President for IATA Americas, Peter Cerdá.
Estelar’s opening of its Caracas – Rome service is nothing but a small effort to provide a small portion of passengers the possibility to reach Italy, nonstop, at somewhat affordable prices.
But from the purely economical and viable perspective, the fact that the airline operates this flight via a charter company, and has no partnerships in Italy (or Europe, for that matter), makes the point-to-point offering volatile at best.