Lufthansa will suspend flights to Venezuela next month “until further notice” as the country struggles with rolling blackouts and inflation approaching 500%, leaving airlines to contend with Venezuelan currency controls and prevailing crisis.
Other major international airlines have also reduced or suspended flights to and from Venezuela. American Airlines announced in March it was cancelling its Caracas-to-New York route just three months after resuming it, according to a Reuters report.
International airlines face problems transferring profits out Venezuela. Billions of dollars have been trapped there in bolivars – the local currency – and inflation is rampant. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises Australians in Venezuela to contact their airline or travel provider for information on possible disruptions.
Once one of South America’s relatively prosperous countries, Venezuela is today staggering under corruption and poverty. Some say it’s on the verge of collapsing into anarchy, beset by political instability, economic chaos, violence, homicide, drug trafficking and gang wars.
An armed squad has just killed 11 people, the Venezuelan Attorney General’s office reported yesterday. A recent survey by Britain’s Independent news site named the Venezuelan capital Caracas as the most violent and dangerous city in the world, with 119.87 homicides for every 100,000 residents.
Located in South America’s far north, Venezuela fronts the Caribbean and borders Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.
DFAT advises: “On April 25 2016, the Venezuelan government introduced rolling blackouts in most parts of the country. The blackouts are expected to remain in effect for at least 40 days. Public sector working hours have been reduced to less than two days a week, making non-essential public services less accessible.
“Rationing of power and other goods has led to demonstrations and unrest. Incidents of crime may increase. The level of the advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Venezuela.”
DFAT adds: “Venezuela has one of the world’s highest crime rates. Violent crime, including murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and carjacking, is endemic throughout Venezuela. Due to high levels of serious crime in Venezuela, Australian officials have been instructed to adopt enhanced security measures when travelling by car.
“The Maiquetia Simon Bolivar Airport area and the road between the airport and Caracas is particularly dangerous due to violent crime. There have been reports of muggings and kidnappings by criminals posing as taxi drivers.”
Other hazards include the mosquito-borne Zika virus and the presence of gangs and terrorists within 80 kilometres of Venezuela’s border with Colombia, affecting travel to parts of Bolivar, Amazonas, Apure, Tachira, Zulia and Barinas. DFAT says this area is simply too dangerous to travel through.
Written by Peter Needham