Caracas’ route network reflects political links; foreign airlines’ presence limited

Cuba’s leader, Fidel Castro’s brother Raúl

Cuba’s leader, Fidel Castro’s brother Raúl, visited his Venezuelan friend and ally Hugo Chávez by flying Cubana into Caracas. The Cuban airline serves Caracas with five weekly flights using its Ilyushin and Tupolev fleet. (Thanks to AFP for this great photo)

Venezuela may be featured more often in the media because of its charismatic and far from media shy president Hugo Chávez than for its aviation industry, but Caracas airport – named after Simón Bolívar, who fought for South America’s independence – has an interesting network which in part reflects the country’s political ties.

Caracas airport traffic 2004-2008 Annual passengers (millions)

Source: Various

In the years 2004-2008, total passenger traffic grew by 37%, with the major growth taking place on international flights. Still, domestic services consistently attract more passengers than international flights. In 2008, 53% of passengers recorded at Caracas travelled on domestic flights.

Caracas: Market shares by region By share of capacity and frequencies

Source: OAG Schedules iNET for w/c 15 March 2010

Similarly to the 2008 passenger numbers, half of current seat capacity is allocated to domestic flights in the vast and inaccessible country. Flights to other South American countries follow, led by flights to neighbour country Colombia. Although traffic to Argentina currently only consists of a weekly LAN flight from Chile among South American nations, President Hugo Chávez in December 2009 agreed with his Argentinean colleague Cristina Kirchner that the two state carriers Conviasa and Aerolineas Argentinas will increase the four weekly flights between Caracas and Buenos Aires that currently are operated by the latter airline to 14 weekly services, to be operated by both airlines.

Political links in the route network at Caracas can also be seen in the only two Middle Eastern destinations offered. Conviasa flies weekly to Tehran via Damascus in cooperation with IranAir and Syrian Air.

European services are dominated by flights to Madrid. Iberia offers daily flights, followed by five weekly each by Air Europa and Santa Barbara Airlines. The other three destinations that offer daily services are Paris CDG (on Air France), Frankfurt (Lufthansa) and Rome Fiumicino (Alitalia).

Although Conviasa, founded in 2004, is Venezuela’s national carrier, its route network is limited, offering domestic flights as well as a few Caribbean and Middle Eastern destinations only.

Aserca bigger than state-owned Conviasa; American Airlines #1 foreign carrier

Top 12 airlines at Caracas Airport By weekly seat capacity offered

Source: OAG Schedules iNET for w/c 15 March 2010

Local, Venezuelan airlines (dark green bars) have a firm hold of the Caracas market, being represented by an entire six different airlines in the airport’s top 12. With Santa Barbara Airlines being owned by Aserca Airlines, the private carrier’s lead over state-owned Conviasa is even greater if combining the two.

American Airlines is the leading foreign carrier, serving the airport from Miami four times daily as well as daily from San Juan in Puerto Rico, twice-weekly from New York JFK and weekly from Dallas/Fort Worth.

In the past year, two international routes have been launched to and from Caracas. Santa Barbara Airlines’ 13 weekly flights to Panama launched on 1 August, a month after Copa/AeroRepública’s launched three weekly flights from Cartagena in Colombia, having just dropped its Bogotá service.


  1. Nuno Pimentel says:

    The author must make more accurate search. TAP Portugal flies from Lisbon, Porto and Madeira to Caracas, with four flights in the winter and daily in summer. Addiotionally, Santa Barbara has flights between Caracas and Madeira, year round.

    • The schedule analysed is the current, for the week commencing 15 March 2010. As you state, TAP Portugal does not offer any destination with daily or more flights in winter, which is why they are not among the European services that have been singled out and been specifically highlighted in the text. The same goes for Santa Barbara’s flights to Europe. In the case of your Funchal example, it is only a weekly service.

  2. Martin says:

    Nevertheless, the non reference to TAP is something that strikes out to anybody familiar with Simon Bolivar operations…

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