Conviasa: The misery of (not) flying

Probably one of the most misleading slogans in recent memory…

Last week, the passengers of state-owned Conviasa flight 3013 from Madrid to Caracas found themselves trapped into a nightmare: the flight was suspended, and no immediate back-up plan was in place. They got stuck in a hotel for several days, left mostly to their own devices (at least they had lodging and food).

Prodavinci’s Daniel Fermin has a series of chronicles that followed their desperate situation in great detail, including pictures (Days 1 & 2 here, three, four, five and the last couple of days when they finally returned home). Their ordeal also attracted the attention of the Spanish media, including this report on TVE’s Telediario last Saturday.

What caused all of this? Simple, Conviasa was leasing an Airbus A340-200 aircraft from Italian airline Blue Panorama and because they didn’t pay them (because Cencoex), they terminated the contract. But the airline focused its PR efforts instead on “guaranteeing the continuity of its commercial operations” and bringing the passengers back.

But the return home wasn’t the last of their problems: some of the passengers claimed that the baggage was delivered two hours late, and that their suitcases were either missing or vandalized. Some even claimed that Conviasa’s personnel threatened those who tried to take pictures with their phones with breaking them. Charming, but can you expect from the official airline of a narco-state?

Delays were also reported in a Conviasa flight to Buenos Aires (also served by Blue Panorama’s aircraft), and even in some of its domestic flights. Matter of fact, most domestic flights are facing constant delays because of the lack of airplanes.

As the crisis caused by the huge debt of the central government with international air carriers (4,1 billion dollars) continues, IATA’s Director General Tony Tyler has warned of the isolation Venezuela could face, but Aerial Transportation Minister Luis Graterol said the complete opposite: “The state has no debt with the airlines”.

In the meantime, Conviasa’s earlier pledge of taking over flights suspended by other airlines is brought down by reality. But what else can be expected of an airline that openly engages in political discrimination?