A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about advice that security advisors at Spanish airline Air Europa sent their pilots and cabin crew should they be kidnapped while on a layover in Venezuela’s Capital, Caracas. Air Europa is one of only a handful of European airlines that flies to Caracas but despite a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the country, it remains the only airline that allows its crew to stay in Venezuela in between flights.
Venezuela is currently in the grip of a major constitutional and humanitarian crisis after the incumbent President, Nicolás Maduro refused to cede defeat to opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The situation seems to be getting worse by the day and the entire country has entered its fourth day of a nationwide powercut.
There have been mass protests in Caracas and scores of protestors have been killed by the security services amidst the unrest. To make matters worse, violent crime is making the humanitarian crisis even worse and there have been reports of kidnappings and violent robberies.
A number of airlines that used to fly to Caracas have suspended flights to the country because the political and security situation is just too fragile. Others such as Iberia and EuroAtlantic, who operate flights on behalf of TAP Portugal, have added crew stopovers in nearby islands to ensure the safety of their staff.
Yet despite the significant risks, Air Europa has continued to fly direct to Caracas and has been forcing its pilots and cabin crew to stopover in a city center hotel. According to sources quoted by several Spanish news sites, Air Europa crew who arrived in Caracas over the weekend were attacked by armed robbers while travelling in a minibus from the airport to their downtown hotel.
Three motorcycles surrounded the crew bus but it was able to get to the hotel where private security guards engaged the robbers resulting in a shootout. It’s understood that none of the crew was injured and understandably they refused to stay at the hotel – instead, a police convoy took them straight back to the airport with the return crew for the flight back to Madrid.
“They tried to rob them, but the van was able to reach the hotel where the airline crews were staying, at which time there was a shooting between the assailants and the hotel security forces, who managed to repel the attack,” explained José Roncero, of the SEPLA pilots union.
It’s now understood that Air Europa has finally decided to add a stopover to its Caracas service and crew will now layover in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.