LATAM Colombia has been granted authorization by the country’s Civil Aeronautics to operate seven weekly flights on the Bogotá – Caracas route; and first for the subsidiary of Chile’s LATAM Airlines. The authorization comes with President-elect Gustavo Petro’s announcement that once sworn-in as President of Colombia on August 7, he will restart full diplomatic relations with Venezuela and his counterpart, Nicolás Maduro.
Venezuela closed all air connectivity with Colombia in 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic, but tense relations between the current government of Iván Duque and Maduro during these last four years also contributed to Colombia-registered carriers avoiding Venezuelan airspace.
In October, 2016, during a routine flight by Avianca, on its Madrid-Bogotá route, the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with 248 passengers on board, was intercepted by Venezuelan fighter jets and forced to the international border. After the incident, Avianca proceeded to re-route its Europe flights to avoid crossing Venezuelan territory.
LATAM’s inauguration of a Bogotá-Caracas flight faces competition after Avianca also asked Aeronautica Civil on May 17 that it wants to resume operations in the Venezuelan capital and return to Simón Bolívar International Airport (Maiquetía) with a daily flight operated by an A319 aircraft. Avianca was a key player in connecting Venezuela with Colombia for over 60 years until the flagship carrier pulled-out of the market in 2017 citing international safety concerns.
With some 1.8 million Venezuelans residing in Colombia, and 300,000 Colombians living in the neighboring country, the jump starting of diplomatic relations will not only bolster passenger traffic, but also cargo operations and mail delivery. Venezuelan regional carriers LASER, Avior and Copa’s low-cost carrier Wingo operated limited flights between the two countries until Colombia shut its airspace with the health emergency.
LATAM and Avianca must now await a decision by Venezuela’s National Institute of Civil Aeronautics (Inac) to give them the green light. For its part, Wingo, has requested to fly between Bogotá and Valencia, Venezuela, facilitating connectivity between the Colombian capital and a key business center close to the oil-rich state of Zulia.