The Spanish cabin crew union, SEPLA has slammed Air Europa after the airline decided it would continue operating flights to Venezuela’s Capital, Caracas despite growing unrest in the country. Two pilots and eight flight attendants were victims of an attempted armed robbery after their bus was attacked while driving from the airport to the crew hotel in downtown Caracas at the weekend – they managed to escape unhurt but only after hotel security guards exchanged gunfire with the assailants.
“We are in a situation of helplessness: on the one hand, the company for its commercial interests ignores us and the institutions are passive in the face of this fact,” explained SEPLA deputy secretary, Rafael Muñoz. As well as pleading with Air Europa to suspend flights to Caracas and making two complaints to Spain’s Ministry of Labour and Employment, the union’s demands have so far been ignored.
At one point, Air Europa’s parent company, the Mallorca-based Globalia even claimed the armed robbery didn’t take place and there were suggestions the airline would continue forcing its cabin crew to layover in Caracas. As it stands, Air Europa is continuing to fly to Caracas but following the robbery, the airline added a stopover in Punta Cana for a crew change.
Most international airlines have stopped flying to Caracas, while others such as Spain’s Iberia and Air France have cancelled flights intermittingly based on the latest security information in the country. Those carriers, along with EuroAtlantic who operate flights from Lisbon on behalf of TAP Portugal have added stopovers for a crew change.
The only airline which is currently flying direct to Caracas from Europe is the Spanish PlusUltra airline. A flight which landed in the country on Tuesday rescued a number of crew members who had been stranded in the Venezuelan capital for nearly a week. It’s not known whether PlusUltra will schedule any more flights to Caracas following that incident.
Scores of people have died over the last few weeks as deepening unrest grips Venezuela. An extensive powercut has affected much of the country and Caracas over the last five days making the situation even more desperate. There have been reports of many deaths due to the power cuts and fresh drinkable water has become a precious commodity.
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.
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.
Air Europa was previously criticised for offering in-depth advice to its crew on what they should do if they were kidnapped while in Caracas.