MIAMI — Aruban flag carrier, Aruba Airlines, launched what could arguably be labeled as the world’s shortest commercial flight by jet plane.
The airline, in partnership with the Venezuelan government, inaugurated its Aruba (AUA)-Punto Fijo (LSP) route on its Bombardier CRJ-200LR yesterday.
The two airports are separated by a short 50 miles. However, the two countries are separated by 15 miles (24 km).
Currently, the world’s shortest commercial flight is Loganair’s Westray to Papa Westray, scheduled to last less than two minutes.
However, Aruba Airlines’ flight to Punto Fijo lasts less than eight minutes, becoming one of the world’s fastest active international flights by jet.
The Venezuelan state’s governor, Victor Clark, said that the opening of this route will strengthen the country’s air connectivity.
“We welcome the re-start of direct flights to Aruba,” said Clark.
Hoy con satisfacción y optimismo, anunciamos el fortalecimiento de las rutas de transporte aérea. Esta vez, recibimos el primer avión en el reinicio de vuelos con la isla de #Aruba mediante la aerolínea Aruba Airlines. Proximamente serán más las aerolíneas y las rutas. pic.twitter.com/F7hm4tIiGb
— VÍCTOR CLARK BOSCÁN (@vclarkb) May 18, 2018
The airline will operate the flight twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays, offering connections to Curacao, Bonaire, and Miami.
Even though prices for the short hop are marketed at a high fare of US$235, the inaugural flight carried 50 passengers.
The opening of this route will increment by 45% the number of international passengers flying out of LSP.
The inaugural event was attended by regional authorities, and the airline’s staff, which will set base at the airport looking to “open an air bridge” between both countries.
Vuelo inaugural de la aerolínea @arubaairlines, con dos vuelos semanales lunes y viernes, las piedras Aruba, con conexiones a Curazao, Bonaire y Miami.
.#18Mayo #Venezuela #Destinos pic.twitter.com/oriUPftVJW
— IAEF (@IAEFALCON) May 19, 2018
“We’re very pleased to expand our domestic and international routes out of this airport,” the Governor said.
Clark also mentioned that his Government keeps an open relationship with Aruba, looking to strengthen the connectivity and the economies between both countries.
“We have set the goal of becoming the country’s most important tourism destination, for both domestic and international travelers,” he said.
In January, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of all air, maritime, and commercial traffic to Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.
Maduro accused the islands of running illegal operations by extracting from Venezuela gold, copper, food, medicines, and selling them overseas.
“They take away gold from this country illegally, and make it legal to sell there,” Maduro said.
“I didn’t want to take a measure like this one, but I am ready to take even more radical measures,” he added.
The blockade lasted almost three months.
Venezuelan Vice President, Tareck El Aissami, announced in April that his government would re-instate all air and sea traffic, following negotiations with the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stef Blok.
Today, after the diplomatic spat ended, Aruba Airlines has partnered with the Punto Fijo Airport and the Venezuelan Falcon State to open this route.
The Punto Fijo Airport is poorly served by Venezuelan carriers to domestic destinations. The airport is often deserted with very little connectivity.
However, not all frontiers have been opened up between both countries.
Flights to Aruba can only depart from three Venezuelan airports: Valencia (VLN), Maracaibo (MAR), and Punto Fijo (LSP); whereas flights to Curacao and Bonaire can only depart from Caracas (CCS).
With the re-opening of the Dutch Antilles frontiers, the Venezuelan government seems desperate to keep some of its international connectivity alive.
In April, Maduro also banned Panamanian flag carrier, Copa Airlines, from flying to Venezuela. Panama’s government followed suit and banned all Venezuelan airlines from flying into the Central American country.
However, after considerable international pressure, Maduro announced that he was restoring flights to Panama as part of an agreement that he reached with President Juan Carlos Varela.
“We have agreed to have the best bilateral relations and to channel differences in the best way possible,” Maduro said.
Venezuelan Officials Sanctioned
In February 2017, El Aissami was placed on the US Office of Foreign Assets Control blacklist. According to the US Government, the Venezuelan Executive Vice President aided drug traffickers, therefore freezing all his assets in the United States.
The sanctioned list also includes President Nicolas Maduro.
According to the US Government, El Aissami allowed the shipping of narcotics from Venezuela and owned shipments of over 1,000 kg of Cocaine that left Venezuela to Mexico and the United States.
And just two days ahead of a fixed presidential election, the US Government announced further sanctions against Diosdado Cabello, the second-most powerful man in the country.
The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control claims that Cabello was also responsible for drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering and embezzling government money.
Aruba Airlines: Who are they?
Aruba Airlines was founded in 2006, formally launching operations in 2012 after being awarded its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC).
The carrier leased its first two Airbus A320s and began flying to short destinations in Maracaibo and Panama City.
In 2016, the airline took delivery of its first Airbus A319, with which it launched flights to Miami (MIA) and Valencia (VLN).
In late 2017, the airline received two Bombardier CRJ-200s, adding up to one active Airbus A319, and one A320. The average age of its fleet amounts to 18 years.
Today, the airline flies to Bonaire, Curacao, Valencia, Maracaibo, Punto Fijo, and Miami.
But, in reality, the success of this niche route is highly unlikely.
Punto Fijo does not offer strong connecting traffic from other cities in Venezuela that require an international reach, strongly relying on point-to-point originating passengers.
And with fares as low as $235 for such a quick flight, a country that forbids transactions in US Dollars makes this new commercial service less likely to succeed.
Rumors are that Aruba Airlines is owned by a group that’s close to Venezuelan Government officials. Should it be true, the commercial rationale behind this niche route would be proven valid.
Will it last? All bets are on.