Monday, 16 April 2018

VENEZUELA: Maduro Kicks Out Copa Airlines From Venezuela

The Venezuelan government has unilaterally suspended all Copa Airlines operations to and from the country for at least 90 days, starting today, to protect the Venezuelan financial system from organized crime and terrorism, an official communicate says.

The release notes that the sanction could be extended.

The unilateral measures come as a retaliation taken by the government of Nicolas Maduro over a series of sanctions the Government of Panama imposed last week on several Venezuelan politicians.

The Panamanian Government stated that Maduro, along with 55 individuals and 16 Venezuelan companies, are considered a high risk for laundering money, terrorism financing, and trafficking weapons of mass destruction.

In return, the Venezuelan regime issued these sanctions against Copa Airlines claiming that several top-ranking authorities from Panama, including its President, Juan Carlos Varela, had been involved in money laundering.

They present an imminent risk to the Venezuelan financial system, the stability of commerce in the country, and the sovereignty and economic independence of the Venezuelan people, Maduro said.

The retaliation from the Venezuelan government has taken Copa Airlines by surprise.

These penalties were released by 4:00 p.m. local time on Thursday, April 5, and the Venezuelan National Civil Aviation Institute (INAC) released it at 9:00 p.m. via a Twitter post.

INAC claims the sanctions imposed on Copa were to prevent organized crime and terrorism finance

As a consequence, commercial ties with various companies and Panamanian officials were halted by the Venezuelan executive.

Following Venezuela’s measures, Panama has decided to recall its ambassador and asked the Venezuelan ambassador in Panama City to leave the country.

Copa Airlines said in a release that all affected passengers may ask for a refund of any outstanding tickets without penalties.

As of today, Copa Airlines was the last Latin American carrier operating in Venezuela with daily services to/from its hub in Panama City.

Just recently, the airline celebrated its 70th anniversary and held an event at the Venezuelan Capital reaffirming their intentions to continue serving the country despite the massive exodus of Venezuelans and the cancellation of other airlines serving Caracas.

Copa has operated daily flights to Caracas for the last 20 years.

Venezuela has suffered a massive exodus of airlines, with ten global carriers axing their daily services to the country in the last six years.

International organizations have also fled away because of the prohibitive, unsafe, and tense political climate in the country.

Since 1997, Copa Airlines has flown millions of Venezuelan passengers, connecting them from Caracas (CCS), Maracaibo (MAR), and Valencia (VLN) across its 75 destinations in 31 countries in the American continent.

With this suspension, the connectivity to Latin American cities from Venezuela will see a drop of over 85% in seat availability.

Currently, Wingo remains as the only Latin American carrier flying to Venezuela, five times per week, from its hub in Bogota. Wingo is a subsidiary of Copa Airlines and, so far, hasn’t been added to the sanction.

Copa Airlines (CM) and Lufthansa (LH), as members of the Star Alliance, reached an agreement that increases their commercial relations.

Copa will now be able to commercialize the Panama (PTY) – Frankfurt (FRA) – Panama route, operated by the German carrier.

Austrian Airlines will also be incorporated to the group of airlines with commercial relations with the Panamanian carrier.

Passengers will have the option to make connections in different cities from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia through Frankfurt’s hub.

With this alliance between Copa Airlines and the Lufthansa Group, passengers will have better options to connect to and from all Latin America through Copa Airlines’ Hub of the Americas in Panama, said Christophe Didier, Commercial Vice President of Copa Airlines.

Similarly, it will now be easier and more comfortable for passengers anywhere in Latin America to directly reach their destination in Europe, he said.

Additionally, Lufthansa’s passengers could use Copa’s services to and from its hub in Panama.

In turn, Copa’s customers can benefit from the services of the Lufthansa Group’s airlines and their hubs in Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Vienna, and Brussels.

Felipe Bonifatti, General Manager of the Lufthansa Group in Panama, said that the excellent relationship that has united us with Copa Airlines for many years now has now expanded and consolidated through this new and more complete commercial agreement.

This brings countless benefits for everyone, particularly for mutual customers.

At Lufthansa, we are delighted that our flight from Panama to Frankfurt and vice versa also carries a Copa Airlines flight number, with codeshare, he said.

Back in November 2015, Lufthansa signed its first agreement with Copa for the flights to Latin American destinations.

Copa flights in the current winter schedule from Miami, Florida, to Panama, were operated under an additional Lufthansa flight number for passengers to travel from Frankfurt via Miami to Panama City.

Also, additional codeshare flights on Copa from Panama City to the cities of David in Panama, Guayaquil, and Quito in Ecuador, and San Jose in Costa Rica starting with Lufthansa’s inaugural flight from Frankfurt to Panama on March 2, 2016.

Copa Airlines also has agreements and codeshares with other international carriers, allowing its customers to reach over 1,300 airports in 191 countries, with more than 18,400 daily flights.

The airline currently offers service to more than 70 destinations in 31 countries, in North, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean with 101 aircraft: 80 Boeing 737 Next-Generation and 21 Embraer-190.

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