American Airlines Halts Flights to Caracas, Maracaibo in Venezuela

By Reuters
March 15, 2019 Updated: March 15, 2019

The American Airlines Group said on March 15, it has temporarily suspended its operations into Caracas and Maracaibo after its pilots’ union urged its workers to deny trips to Venezuela in the wake of a travel advisory issued by the U.S. State Department.

The department cited civil unrest, poor health, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens in Venezuela for issuing the advisory on March 12.

A number of airlines have stopped their flights to the South American country because of security concerns and disputes over money they say the Venezuelan government owes them.

American Airlines stops flights to Venezuela
An American Airlines flight. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“Our corporate security team has a collaborative partnership with all of our union leaders and we will continue to do so to evaluate the situation in Venezuela,” the airline said in a statement, adding that American will not operate to countries it does not consider safe.

“Do not accept any trips to Venezuela,” Allied Pilots Association President Captain Dan Carey, told pilots in a letter seen by Reuters.

“Until further notice, if you are scheduled, assigned, or reassigned a pairing into Venezuela, refuse the assignment” and call chief pilots, the association, which represents about 15,000 American Airlines pilots, said in a note to its members on Thursday.

United Airlines ended its flights to Venezuela in 2017.

The decision is supported by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants that represents American’s 25,000 flight attendants.

“Of course without the pilots, the flight’s not operating,” Lori Bassani, APFA’s president told CNBC.

Venezuela plunged into a deep political crisis in January when Juan Guaidó, head of the opposition-controlled Congress, invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 re-election was not legitimate.

Venezuela crisis-protest
A supporter of Venezuelan opposition leader and self-proclaimed acting president Juan Guaidó, stands in front of a line of National Bolivarian riot police officers during a demo in Caracas on March 9, 2019. (Matias Delacroix/AFP/Getty Images)

The move has put Venezuela at the heart of a geopolitical tussle, with the United States leading most Western nations in recognizing Guaidó as the legitimate head of state.

All U.S. diplomats left the country on Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“Do not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens,” the State Department said in a travel advisory on March 12.

Shares of the airline were down almost 1 percent at $31.88 in afternoon trading.

The Epoch Times reporter Venus Upadhayaya contributed to this report.