The situation in Venezuela is not getting any better. With violence increasing as the economy further descends into chaos, United Airlines now fears for the safety of its crews. Rather than suspend service completely, it has taken a novel to approach to ensure that its crews spend only an hour on the ground in Caracas.
United Flights to Caracas Will Stop in Aruba as of 04 April 2017
Currently, United’s daily Houston (IAH) to Caracas (CCS) flight departs in the morning and flies non-stop to CCS. Although the plane makes a quick turn, the round-trip is slightly too long to be made by a single crew. Consequently, crews are forced to spend a night in Caracas, a city that has a staggering crime rate (now world’s most violent city).
To reduce the risk to its employees, United’s outbound flight from IAH to CCS will make a one-hour ground stop in Aruba (AUA) to change crews starting on April 4th. The new crew will continue to Caracas then immediately back to Houston. As a result, no United crew will have to step off the plane (except for the captain’s safety walk around).
With President Nicolás Maduro vowing never to let an airline back if they leave, United is wise to avoid suspending service completely. While the country continues to deteriorate economically and socially, it was already dangerous enough in 2014 for Air Canada to pull out.
The new route will operate on the following schedule–
Caracas was a meal service exception route, still offering complimentary meals. With the new flight now a redeye, no more free meals will be provided in economy class during the outbound journey (nor in business class). A complimentary hot lunch will still be served for the non-stop return.
No New United Fifth Freedom Route from AUA-CCS
United currently serves Aruba from Houston once weekly on Saturdays. Despite this new daily Houston to Aruba flight, United does not have the rights (yet) to carry passengers only as far as Aruba. Further, United cannot pick up passengers in Aruba and transport then to Caracas. Too bad, that would have made an interesting Fifth Freedom route!
This is a clever solution to a glaring safety problem. In all honesty, I’d rather walk the streets of Damascus, Kabul, or Baghdad than Caracas. But then again, I walked the streets of Bogota back when it held the dubious honor of being world’s most violent city and lived to tell about it! United Airlines’ Venezuela service will continue, albeit a bit less convenient than before…