There’s something to say about Venezuela’s shoddy aviation business. In the contemporary world when your economy cracks up, first against the wall after the citizen and a few retailers is the aviation business. Crack pots in Caracas have ensured that its aviation industry has contracted into a tiny shadow of its former self. Venezuela, because of its geographical position, used to be quite a centre for aviation. Not Dubai-sized, but important.
It’s own airliners, or those that remain, prefer to fly out of the country in order to earn forex whereas the domestic business is a disaster. Decimated by Chavezmo and Chavreckrom and shaken by a bizarre suicidal recklessness which has taken hold of its now technically illegal leadership, local airlines are on their knees.
Facts please, Des.
Ok, how about the number of domestic passengers plummeting by 45% in two years? (Source: Association of Airlines of Venezuela or ALAV). ALAV is in the toilet, so to speak.
There’s no nice way to put this, dear reader, other than to say that the ghost of the expired president looms like a dark and dirty cloud in the minds of the present-day leadership. And the effect is rampant inflation and a self-destruct button that Jared Diamond described in his book “Collapse”.
Back in the 80’s, Caracas Simon Bolivar Airport was considered the gateway of the Americas. Now its a gangplank to a terminal self-obsessed quasi-socialist sea.
This is not a political blog. I merely point out that when the hoopla world of extremist lunacy takes hold whether right, left or religious, its the start of a slow (or quick) slide into the financial abyss.
At first Hugo and his political supporters rode the carbon-rich commodity wave like Hawaiian big board surfers and the airlines in his country joined the merry little moment. All loud shirts and smiling through the power. But the swell is down. A terrible calm has descended on Venezuelan aviation. The anabatic wind has dropped, the posturing which goes with hubris of his sort has left the country with financial gangrene. It’s eating itself alive.
Let’s go over some reality bits folks. Nicolas “bugger you all” Maduro, shame, is the fall guy for Hugo Chaves’ paternalistic and snake-oil ideology.
So Brazil’s last formal airline GOL terminated its links to Venezuela this year. The effect? Virtually no-one in the region flies to that godforsaken land of murderous thugs and pandering sycophants. For a country with the largest oil reserves in the world, not having aeroplanes flying around is a shocker.
Its state-owned airline Conviasa is convalescing. Most of the fleet is grounded and operational difficulties include the sourcing of Jet A1. Not a surprise, seeing that Conviasa was setup by Chavez and its president Cesar Martinez Ruiz in 2012 declared notoriously that “… profits are irrelevant to us as we are a Socialist Airline…”. Well forget profits, Mr Ruiz. Just start with breaking even.
Oh, and if you’re looking to fly to Venezuela from Miami its $600 for midnight flights out of season and up to a distinctly un-socialist $5000 in season. That’s more than double the price of a Business Class ticket between London and Johannesburg. Return.
Not what we’d call the shining light of equality.
Maduro’s government now no longer repatriates cash on time for overseas airlines. It’s what Zimbabwe did and led directly to that country’s airspace technically shutting down for commercial aviation until recently.
By June 2016, $3.8 billion was owed by Caracas to Lufthansa, American Airlines and Copa. Yes, you can still purchase a ticket to fly in and out of Venezuela. But only in Caracas’ most hated currency, the US dollar. That means domestic passengers just don’t have the cash to fly. Because they can’t access the dollar. Because the government hoards its enemies’ currency. Makes sense, ja?
IATA is starting to take more notice. This year for example at the IATA meeting in Ireland, the topic of repatriation of capital earned by airlines was the centre-piece of CEO Tony Tyler’s speech.
It’s only a matter of time before Venezuela airspace resembles the Zombie apocalypse. Maduro and his underlings carp about the US being behind an attempt to overthrow his left-wing government. That may or may not be true. What is certainly true is that Nicolas and his dilapidated jackbooted apologists have weakened their own state to such an extent that anyone with a wooden stick and a couple of berets could arrive and knock over what remains of the turgid country which could feature in the next version of that post-apocalyptic video game, Far Cry.
Thirty years ago Venezuela was a central aviation hub in the region. Now its ghastly. Ghost-like.