Why major airlines are cutting flights to Venezuela

Air Canada suspended flights to Venezuela earlier this year. Courtesy Air Canada, provided

United is the latest major airline to suspend flights to Venezuela. Many other airlines, such as Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta and Lufthansa, have made similar decisions to either decrease or stop service in recent months and years.

The withdrawals have left the South American country increasingly isolated, as political unrest has intensified to deadly protests. At the heart of the issue is a dispute between two political parities — the opposition and the ruling government.

READ MORE: Venezuela crisis: Hundreds of thousands hit streets to mark 50 days of anti-regime protests

At least 60 people have died since the protests began more than two months ago. Those taking to the streets are demanding an early election, and help amid economic difficulties and food shortages.

WATCH: Venezuela unrest

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Many airlines have cited security reasons for cutting down flights, specifically the safety of their workers living in Venezuela. Flight demand from tourists has also been dropping due to the violence.

Air Canada, which stopped flights to the country in March, said they will resume service once the company is “satisfied that the situation in Venezuela has stabilized.” However, it’s unclear when that will happen. On Monday, jailed Venezuela opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez called for protests to continue.

The government of Canada is urging residents to avoid non-essential travel to Venezuela, citing a “significant” level of violent crime, political instability and the decline of basic living conditions.

But the anti-government unrest isn’t the only reason airlines are leaving the country.

READ MORE: Trump administration concerned by U.S. firms propping up Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro

Many airlines have left after a dispute over billions of dollars they say the Venezuelan government owes them. They claim President Nicolas Maduro’s administration failed to reimburse companies in hard currency for ticket sales in local currency, as per strict currency controls in the socialist nation.

According to the International Air Transport Association, Venezuela owes airlines $3.8-billion.

– With files from Reuters, The Associated Press


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