As the economic and political crises in Venezuela continue to worsen, more airline crews are choosing to avoid ever even stepping out of the airport during layovers. That has forced airlines to get creative.
While many carriers have scaled back or eliminated service to Caracas and other Venezuelan cities during the on-going deterioration of the Bolivarian Republic, others remain. But carriers like Iberia and TAP Air Portugal have become more creative.
Iberia flies to Caracas (CCS) three times per week. But the outbound flight from Madrid (MAD) now stops in Santo Domingo (SDQ) in the Dominican Republic for a crew change. A new crew continues onto Caracas then departs immediately back to Madrid.
Meanwhile, TAP Air Portugal flies nonstop from Lisbon (LIS) to Caracas, but the crew remains onboard. The return flight stops in Curacao (CUR), a Dutch Caribbean island, for a crew change.
In case you are wondering, these SDQ-CCS and CCS-CUR tag flights are not sold separately as Fifth Freedom routes. In fact, neither the Iberia nor TAP websites even indicate to customers that the flights make technical stops.
But a quick check of flight status on Google verifies that these stops are indeed made.
TAP told Boomberg:
There’s an extra cost for this, but the crew’s safety is our priority.
Other Airlines: No Change in Policy
Other airlines like Air Europa, Air France, Turkish Airlines, and even American Airlines will not alter current crew layover policy. But as the situation continues to deteriorate, it may just be a matter of time.
In 2017, United Airlines implemented a similar stop in Aruba enroute to Caracas. That was just a stopgap, as the carrier totally pulled out of Venezuela just months later. With 35 people killed in political demonstrations over the last month and the murder rate climbing, Caracas is not the place I’d want to be right now.