CARACAS — Turkey’s flagship carrier, Turkish Airlines, launched flights to Havana and Caracas on December 20, marking the carrier’s 16th and 17th destinations in the Americas.
Flight TK183 operated by a Boeing 777-300ER (TJ-LJI · MSN 44130 · LN 1405) landed in Simón Bolívar International Airport at 14:04 local, after a three-hour flight from Havana. The total flight time from Istanbul was fifteen hours and 17 minutes.
After the customary water canon salute the jetliner was parked at Gate 23, where an opening ceremony took place led by Marleni Contreras, minister of tourism of Venezuela, Sule Öztunç, Turkish Ambassador in Venezuela and Kerem Sarp, SVP Sales, Turkish Airlines.
During a press conference held in the Airport, Öztunç highlighted the economic and cultural relevance of this new flight, which she considers to be part of a “new era in the diplomatic relations between Ankara and Caracas.”
Ricardo Molina, Venezuelan minister of transport and public Works, praised the efforts of Turkish Airlines to materialize this flight in less than two months, after the official visit of Nicolás Maduro to Turkey last October. On the other hand, Kerem Sarp thanked for the efforts of the governments of Turkey and Venezuela to open this new flight, to be operated three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Turkish Bets on a Troubled Market to Expand its Network
In the recent years, Venezuela has seen airlines reduce capacity or cancel their services to the country due to the impossibility of transfering back their revenue in foreign currency. Just this year, Brazil’s GOL and LATAM, and German carrier Lufthansa put their operations to Caracas to an end.
According to IATA, the outstanding sum to date is around $3.8 billion.
Meanwhile, Venezuelan domestic carriers have struggled to keep afloat, by swapping their domestic flights for international services, in a move sought to obtain foreign currency required to cover their basic operational expenses.
In an informal talk with Airways, Kerem Sarp was bullish on the new Caracas service.
“This flight is a perfect option for Middle East and Asian travelers, as the arrival time of this flight to Istanbul allows the transfer to most of the Asian destinations served by Turkish Airlines, including our three destinations to China.”
Since 1998, China and Venezuela have established a sound diplomatic and economic ties, with a growing Chinese expat community and a small yet profitable business traveler market.
Turkish Airlines has also announced that the flights will be commercialized via web in US Dollars only, thus reducing the exposure to the risk of selling in bolivars and have their income trapped in the South American country.
Havana and Caracas join to Turkish Airlines’ destinations portfolio in the Americas, with flights from Istanbul to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Bogota, Panama, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Miami and Atlanta.