MIAMI — The US Federal Aviation Administration has issued an emergency order which bans all US-registered aircraft from flying to and over Venezuela.
On April 30, the FAA had forbidden any US-registered aircraft to fly below 26,000 feet over Venezuelan airspace.
At the time, a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) had been issued, banning all US-registered aircraft and US citizens holding an FAA airman certificate from flying within the troubled country’s airspace.
The NOTAM also instructed all affected pilots in Venezuelan territory to vacate the country in 48 hours.
Today, this partial restriction has escalated to a complete ban. The FAA cites “increasing political instability and tensions” which are an “inadvertent risk to flight operations.”
Even though the number of US carriers operating to Venezuela has dramatically decreased since American Airlines suspended its three-daily flights to the country in March, this ban represents a major halt to operations in and out of Venezuela.
American Airlines’ pilot unions unilaterally voted that the flights to Caracas (CCS) and Maracaibo (MAR) represent a major threat to aircraft and crew, therefore forcing the airline to terminate its service to the troubled country.
The cancellation of AA’s flights to Venezuela also coincides with the termination of diplomatic relations between both countries, following the closure of the US Embassy in Caracas.
Since then, the only US-registered commercial aircraft operating between the US and Venezuela were charter operators Swift Air and World Atlantic. The Miami-based airlines had been running charter flights on behalf of Venezuelan carriers Laser Airlines, Estelar, and Avior.
On April 30, however, following the FAA’s mandate that forbids any US-registered airplane flying into Venezuelan soil, both Swift Air and World Atlantic have ceased operating flights for its Venezuelan clients.
Laser Airlines has re-directed its CCS-MIA operation with a stop in Santo Domingo (SDQ) in the Dominican Republic. The airline is flying its own McDonnell-Douglas MD-80s to SDQ, where its passengers later board a Swift Air Boeing 737s to carry on to the final destination.
Avior, on the other hand, is re-routing its passengers from CCS to Barcelona (BLA), to then board its Airbus A340-300 to MIA.
Currently, Copa Airlines represents the most viable choice for passengers wishing to fly between Venezuela and the USA. The Panamanian carrier has three daily flights between Panama City (PTY) and CCS.
As far as European airlines is concerned, only Air France, Iberia, Air Europa, TAP Portugal, Plus Ultra, and Turkish Airlines continue flying to the country.
During the recent protests that have seen hundreds of opposition members harmed and more than a dozen killed, most airlines have opted to cancel their flights into Caracas until it is safe enough for crews to overnight.
Venezuelan Dictator, Nicolas Maduro, has ordered the immediate closure of the country’s airspace for all private and general aviation traffic. However, several government-owned private planes can be seen flying within the country’s confines.
Private long-range business jets have been spotted flying into Caracas from Moscow. Local journalists suggest that these planes were sent by Vladimir Putin to vacate Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores.
Last year, a judge in New York City sentenced the nephews of Cilia Flores to 18 years in prison, following their convictions on drug trafficking charges. They were found guilty of conspiring to smuggle more than 1,700 pounds of cocaine into the United States.