Conviasa suspends operations, Wamos Air cuts Conviasa flights

Conviasa's 747-400, operated by Wamos Air and pictured at Madrid. Wamos Air suspended their contract with Conviasa on May 5th, at the same time that the company reportedly suspended all domestic and international flights. Photo Credits: Fly News

According to Airways and multiple news agencies in Venezuela, Wamos Air (based in Madrid, Spain) suspended its operations on behalf of Venezuelan flag carrier Conviasa, citing political reasons as justification for suspending its contract. The airline has relocated its staff to the Dominican Republic until a final decision is made on the fate of Wamos’ operations in Venezuela.

Passengers waiting at the Conviasa desks in Porlamar Airport on Isla Margarita on May 5th. The desks were shut, with no staff in sight. Photo Credits: Twitter / Billy Castro (@birrilly)

The debacle began on May 5th, when users on Twitter announced that the airline reportedly suspended all domestic and international flights, linked to an issue with the airline’s insurance. Twitter user Hannah Ciebles (@hannitahj) tweeted, saying that she “just got off a Conviasa plane, they told us that there will be no more flights, and that they do not know why,” and others began reporting problems as well. Elyangelica Gonzalez, a reporter with Univision in Venezuela, began tweeting, saying that all flights were suspended due to an insurance issue with the airline, and that management had not decided what to do.

Later, Gonzalez reported that the President of Conviasa, Franklin Gil, had not taken action, and that the cause of the suspension of flights had been caused by a cancellation of the airline’s insurance by its insurer. Planes can not fly without insurance, and the insurance covered material damage, legal liability and accidents that could have occurred due to the the operation of Conviasa’s aircraft, according to El Nacional (Caracas, Venezuela).

At the same time, reports began to be heard that Wamos Air had suspended its relationship with Conviasa. Wamos Air operated a Boeing 747-400 for Conviasa, operating flights from Caracas to Madrid and Buenos Aires on behalf of the airline. Airways broke the news on the same day, announcing that Wamos had suspended operations on behalf of Conviasa. Internal sources cited multiple reasons for the suspension of operations, including political concerns, administrative concerns and Conviasa’s lack of foreign currency to pay its insurance policy. With both the insurance policy suspended and Wamos Air’s cancellation of its contract with Conviasa, Conviasa is left with no airplanes to fly its passengers on. Conviasa directly owns a fleet of Embraer E190 and Cessna aircraft, however without insurance, the airline is unable to fly these.

A Conviasa Embraer E190 taking off at Caracas in 2014. The airline owns fifteen of these, however only eight are in operation, and seven are in storage. Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons / Orlando Suárez

Conviasa’s newfound problems only compound on the multiple problems that the Venezuelan aviation industry has as a result of the economic recession and political strife in the country. Airlines such as Air Canada, Alitalia, Lufthansa, LATAM, GOL, Insel Air and others have left, while American Airlines and Delta have reduced operations. Operators such as  United have gone so far as to re-route aircraft so their crew do not have to overnight in the Venezuelan capital, with United operating flights on the Houston – Aruba – Caracas – Houston triangle route. Aerolineas Argentinas has reported providing additional security to crew during layovers in the country. In addition to safety issues, airlines have issues taking money out of the country, with the government defaulting on payments to international airlines.

Venezuelan travelers have had to rely on international carriers on and off since 2007 to fly out of the country, with Conviasa’s Airbus A340-200 being banned from flying into the EU after issues were found with the maintenance of the aircraft by EU regulators. Since then, the airline has leased an number of various aircraft from different airlines to fly to Europe and destinations farther afield, such as Air Madrid, Air Pullmantur, Air Plus Comet and Air Asia X. With Wamos Air refusing to operate the Caracas – Buenos Aires route on behalf of Conviasa, the airline has reportedly been forced to fly at least one trip using its Embraer E190s, which has been done in the past, but are commonly forced to make two to three stops to re-fuel. According to the Buenos Aires office of Conviasa’s Facebook page, the airline was not selling tickets or making changes to any bookings, and would provide an update on May 8th.

A Conviasa Airbus A340-200, pictured in 2010 at Medellin, Colombia. Photo Credits: Wikipedia / Andres Ramirez

Sources say that Conviasa does not have the funds to pay for another leased aircraft, but until Conviasa can find a spare aircraft to fly to Madrid, Buenos Aires, or any of its destinations, its stranded passengers have nowhere to go.

Reports from Madrid say that the Boeing 747-400 that was operating for Conviasa has been repainted into an all-white livery in Caracas and been flown back to Madrid to resume operations with Wamos Air. While not operating for other carriers, the airline operates scheduled flights from Madrid to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Mexico, and offers charter flights to numerous destinations on behalf of Pullmantur Cruises.