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Is this the prime airline that Gonsalves referred to when he told us that some great airlines would be flying into Argyle? Will this be our “Flag Carrier” airline? Will this be as good as it gets?

This is a new airline established in 2004, several bad records have held it back from being a success.

January 1997: Venezuela’s former flag carrier, Viasa, ceased operations after 37 years of service due to prolonged financial problems. The company totally collapsed under its financial losses.

May 2001: The idea to create a new flag carrier for Venezuela was proposed, but in December 2002, the project was put on hold until Oct. 1, 2003.

December 2002: The proposed formation of a new airline to be established in December 2002, never happened.

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October 2003: The new Airline Company is formed.

March 30, 2004, the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, signed a decree that formally established the airline. This decree was published in the nation’s official gazette the next day.

November 28, 2004: Conviasa’s inaugural flight was made with a De Havilland Dash 7, a Canadian built aircraft. Flying from the airport in Charallave to the Santiago Marino International Airport on Margarita Island.

December 10, 2004: Conviasa formally began its national and international operations. Conviasa was originally run by the now defunct Ministry of Production and Commerce (Ministerio de la Producción y el Comercio), but it has since been taken over by the Ministry of Infrastructure.

Conviasa airline is an airline 80 per cent owned by the Government of Venezuela, 20 per cent owned the Venezuelan state of “Estado Nueva Esparta” [New Sparta State], which is one of the 23 states of Venezuela. It comprises Margarita Isalnd, Coche, and the largely uninhabited Cubagua.

The airline joins in the fruit of government subsidised aviation fuel, at only 18 U.S. cents a gallon, the cheapest in the world.

The government subsidises all fuel, petrol, diesel, aviation fuel, and cooking gas, to the tune of US$9 billion annually.

How we can be involved with such a heavily subsidised airline when our Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, has objected to a much smaller fuel subsidy, tiny in comparison, that the Trinidad government are making to its airline Caribbean Airlines. Should we get some advice from some big-knob barrister?

The airline has a poor trading record and only flies about 1,000 [2004, 2005, 2006] passengers internationally each week. For the same period they only flew about 5,000 passengers on internal flights each week.

When you consider the numbers against a population of about 30 million, that’s really poor by any standards. Their airline must lose money hand over fist, even with a 90 per cent fuel subsidy.

December 15, 2005: Conviasa flight 2600, a De Havilland Canada Dash 7 with 36 passengers and 4 crew members on board, was forced to make a belly landing at Porlamar’s airport when the landing gear failed to deploy. After circling Porlamar for an hour and a half to burn off fuel, the aircraft touched down without any injuries.

In 2007: Conviasa buys its largest plane in the fleet, a single, aging Airbus A340-200 (YV1004), originally built for Air France in 1993 (14 years old).

Aug. 30, 2008: A Boeing 737-200 took off from Caracas’s Maiquetia airport, Venezuela, and was bound to Latacunga, Ecuador, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Quito. Three crew members (a captain, a first officer and a mechanic) were on board. The plane crashed in mountainous area in Ecuador’s Andes, killing all the three people on board. The Boeing 737 had been stored for a while at Caracas. It was being ferried to Latacunga, reportedly underway to a new owner.

January 2009: Starting this month Conviasa airlines serve the following domestic destinations: Barcelona, Barinas, Caracas, Ciudad Bolivar, Elorza, El Vigia, La Fria, Las Piedras, Maracaibo, Maturin, Porlamar, Puerto Ayacucho, Puerto Ordaz, and San Fernando de Apuri.

For international destinations the airline now serves Damascus, Grenada, Port of Spain Trinidad, St. Vincent, and Tehran, Iran.

The airline has announced that it has shared code agreements with Iran Air, and Air Europa.

Sept. 13, 2010: Flight 2350, an ATR 42 – 300 (registration YV1010), with 47 passengers and 4 crew on board, crashed shortly before landing. It was a domestic scheduled passenger flight from Del Carib “Santiago Marino” International Airport, Porlamar, Isla Margarita to Manuel Carlos Piar Guayana Airport, Ciuda Guayana. There were 34 survivors and 17 fatalities.

September 2010, Conviasa suspended its domestic flights for a fortnight to allow safety checks after one of its planes, an ATR-42 turboprop, crashed in Venezuela, killing 17 people.

January 2012: President Hugo Chavez announced on his weekly television show that the Venezuelan government will soon purchase four Airbus A340-500 jets from Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways for $60 million each. [This never happened]

They have recently terminated direct flights to Iran due to no passengers, Ecuador due to political reasons, and Syria due to danger.

During 2012: Conviasa sell seats at a huge discounts to try and encourage business.

April 2012, Conviasa was banned from flying to 27 countries in the European Union because of safety concerns over its accident record and lack of information. It said that Conviasa failed to show it had taken adequate steps to prevent future accidents.

The airline’s only European destination was Madrid. Most of its flights are within Venezuela but it also flies to Bogata in Colombia, Buenos Aires, and several Caribbean islands.

A report by the European Commission said that the Spanish authorities found “numerous serious safety deficiencies” during inspections of Conviasa planes.

The report also cited two fatal accidents involving Conviasa flights, including one in 2010 that, according to news reports, killed 17 people. It said that Conviasa failed to show it had taken adequate steps to prevent future accidents.

Their fleet of aircraft are ageing. The average age of Conviasa’s fleet is 19.8 years.

1 ATR-42, 1 ATR-72 and 1 Boeing 737-300 have been out of service for

longer than a year.

Venezuela is exploring the purchase of Russian-built Ilyushin Il-96 aircraft for its long-haul missions.

July 31, 2012: It was announced today an agreement with Venezuela’s Conviasa Airlines for the sale of six Embraer 190 jets. The deal also includes 14 purchase options for the same aircraft model.

The value of the order, at list price, is USD 271.2 million, based on January 2012 economic conditions.

The first deliveries are scheduled to take place by the end of 2012 early 2013.

One thing for sure, this is not British Airways or Virgin, or American. Would you fly this airline, I don’t think so.

But with a fuel price of 18 cents a gallon, they should be able to put all other Caribbean airlines out of business, if only they could get it together. I am sure with the help and expert advice of Ralph Gonsalves they will do at least as well as SVG’s ailing economy.


Peter Binose

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

11 replies on “Another fine mess you have got us in Stanley (Opinion)”

  1. Thank you for your work in collecting all these reports, Peter Binose.

    Everybody out there you see now why IWN is not a “legitimate news entity”? It publishes way too many articles, like this opinion piece, that have dangerous information that ordinary people like you and me should not know. Our kind politicians just want o protect us from the Peter Binoses of this world.

  2. Peter, while I appreciate the info provided; I am wondering if you have not jumped the gun here. On what basis are you making this assumption, that this airline will be our “flag carrier?” I ask this, as you appear to have arrived at your answer already.

    By the way, why are you speaking of airlines, when you fully well know that not even a paper plane will be landing at Argyle anytime soon?

    Another thing, people are creatures of habit, most Caribbean folks will not use this airline even if they are giving away free flights. People not dotish, if folks not familiar with you, they not messing with you; and so as bad as LIAT and other familiar regional operating airlines may treat us…we are at least comfortable in heart and mind that we getting to our destination in one piece. So lets assume you are correct, that CONVIASA is to be our “flag carrier”…I will bet anything, MOST VINCENTIANS WILL NOT USE IT AND WILL CONTINUE TO USE WHAT THEY ARE FAMILIAR WITH.

    @NICK, please, THE DISASTER HAS ALREADY OCCURRED. WHAT YOU ARE SEEING IN VINCYLAND IS THE IMPACT OF A DISASTER. There are four stages to a disaster,PREPARATION WARNING, IMPACT AND AFTERMATH. In 2001 and 2005, the NDP was not prepared and so got their arse handed to them. But in 2010, the NDP was prepared and ready to go…but the people did not heed the WARNING OF THE NDP and so the IMPACT OF 2010 ELECTIONS have had some serious ramifications for the country;in a nutshell, we are f’ked!

    Yes, the Gonsalves Administration in 2001 and 2005 was a tropical depression, and most folks paid little attention to the underlining erosion of the economy and societal norms and practices. We have seen the systematic destruction of the Banana industry, the backbone of our economy; we have seen the lack of proper oversight of local institutions that resulted in national ignominy, when said institutions were handed over to foreigners. We have seen the breakdown of societal values,none more exemplify by the Leader of the country when he was accused of such a heinous crime of rape; to only be told by this leader, it was not rape…but merely a “reassuring kiss” @ 4am. We have seen wanton use of state funds for political expediency rather than for the welfare of the people ala referendum and Argyle airport to name a few. We have seen the polarization of the country with no attempt to unite the country, rather we are given a weekly dose of insults and pompous rhetoric as to who is untutored and most recently, those in “voluntarily exile” and never run a “fowl coop”. We have seen, incompetence run amok in the various Ministries of the Gonsalves Administration, so much so, it has become a habit.

    Contrary to popular ULP dogma, running a country is not analogous to running a mauby shop as some dunce would have you believe. In the event of a disaster especially on a large scale of a ruined economy; you need competent personnel to manage things. The country needs a mature leader, who can speak to the people with affection, understanding and in a dignified manner.The country needs a leader who will not be urinating on them and tell them its raining. Not everyone wants to be like the RESIDENT ULP APOLOGIST ON HERE, making a living from prostrating at the feet of Gonsalves. Its time to turn back from the precipice that we are heading towards, yes, this is a disaster with a chance of recovery with a NDP administration…but heading over a cliff with this ULP bandwagon is…suicide.

  3. I am not worried because there is no way the US, Canada or England will allow Conviasa planes to land or take off from their respective airports. This is the reason I keep saying Argyle will not be operational and open to flights from the 3 countries named above, until 2020.

  4. In 2006: The U.S. State Department thwarted Venezuela’s plans to buy Spanish military air transports, Chavez instead purchased from Russia 10 Ilyushin IL-76E — NATO designation Candid — troop/cargo transports and two Ilyushin IL-78 — NATO designation Midas — in-flight tankers with the capacity to refuel three aircraft simultaneously.
    These transport aircraft will be delivered between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the end of 2009, giving Venezuela’s armed forces the largest strategic air lift capacity in Latin America, defense procurement officials say.

    In 2009: Hugo Chavez placed an order for 24 state-of-the-art Russian Sukhoi Su-35 “Flanker-E” fighters for delivery starting by 2010.

    September 24th 2008: During his visit to Beijing, Chavez signed an agreement to purchase 24 Chinese-made K-8 light attack aircraft, which Venezuelan air force officials say will be used for training purposes. The K-8s, which are scheduled to arrive in Venezuela during 2009, will operate from the Teniente Vicente Landaeta Gil Air Base near the city of Barquisimeto in Lara state.

    China also is supplying Venezuela’s air force with 10 long-range JYL-1 radars, three of which already are operating at Paraguana and Mene Mauroa in Falcon state near state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela’s 940,000 bpd Paraguana refining complex and in Apure state near Venezuela’s border with Colombia. The air force expects to achieve almost 100 percent radar coverage of Venezuela’s national territory by 2013 when all 10 radars are installed and operational.

    September 21, 2012: São José dos Campos. – Embraer (NYSE: ERJ; BM&F-BOVESPA: EMBR3) today delivered the first EMBRAER 190 jet to Venezuelan Airline Conviasa, Consorcio Venezuelano de Industria Aeronáutica e Serviços Aéreos S.A.
    The Venezuelan airline’s E190s are configured with 104 seats in economy class, in the traditional and comfortable seat arrangement of the Embraer E-Jets, with four seats per row, two on each side of the aisle and no middle seat.
    [a tiny aircraft for international use]

    Lets hope that Venezuela do not have in mind using Argyle as a military refuelling base.

    They have been building up their aircraft military capacity for a number of years now.

    We must keep in mind we are under certain obligations to ALBA. The problem is, because of the secrecy surrounding our agreement terms with ALBA, we do not know exactly what our obligations are.

  5. ARPEJAYS, you are of course quite right this is the kind of information that should not be published, this is the kind of information that should be hidden from public view. Naughty , very naughty on the part of IWN in publishing what the public should know about, its just not good enough for them to remove the political gag and allow the public a glimpse of what they need to know.

    As for me in exposing what a crap airline this really is, I must say I am sorry that I had to tell the truth, to let the Vincentian public see by recorded evidence all about Conviasa Air.

    TEACHERFANG, I only asked the questions ” Will this be our “Flag Carrier” airline? Will this be as good as it gets? because Herr Doktori Gonsalves told us a few weeks ago that he would be telling us about the excellent international airlines that would be flying into Argyle, Conviasa is the only one he has told us about, this is what he brought to us as an excellent international airline.

    Its not just that the airline is as bad as any fourth world airline, its also about the subsidised fuel that the great Caribbean hypocrite has made a local, regional and international matter when they bring to our attention that Trinidad is subsidising fuel to its national airline ‘CA’. When the airline that he brings to us Conviasa, is using 90% government subsidised aviation fuel.

  6. Gonsalves has anounced that ALBA bank and social fund representatives will be visiting SVG and they will be giving us some serious money. According to him a large amount of wonga.

    What we need to remember is much of what Gonsalves told us to date has turned out to be untrue.

    Gonsalves should ask the Venezuelans for the money they owe us, now about 20 million dollars, for the Cubans wages. That was to be given to us as a gift, not a loan. So far everything that the coalition of the willing has given us are mainly loans that we have to repay.

    Will this huge chunk of cash be repayable, or will it be a loan.

    We are all getting fed up with all these leaching socialists, Cuba and Venezuela, they are big countries, we are only the size of a postage stamp, yet they are bleeding us dry.

    Lets see if this is the big eqalizer, back payment of the Venezuelan debt to us, and some free input from Cuba, because its payback time, we are reversing things.


  7. ‘Conviasa’ Venezuela’s national Airline

    Embraer E190 [made in Brazil] 1800 nautical miles maximum flying time before refuelling.
    Caracas to Miami 1400 nmiles, with the extra fuel needed to land and take off, if the aircraft lands at SVG it will be close to its full range to then fly on to Miami.

  8. This debate reminds me of the Bequia airport. My argument against the construction was: It has to show that it’s going to bring in and take out a number of passengers and products to be profitable. I’ll use the same argument for this Venezuela airline. How many daily, weekly or monthly trips will it take for it to be profitable?
    I am not aware of any data that shows the viability of this airline operating in SVG, unless it will take over from or compete against LIAT.

  9. PVPALMER, according to Gonsalves ‘Conviasa’ Venezuela’s National Airline’ will be plying between Caracas, Argyle and the US. This is to be our US carrier shuttling our people from SVG to the US, this is it. Problem is they only currently fly as far as Miami, once a week. We need to ask how will that allow our people to fly direct from New York and Canada? Doesn’t that completely defeat the need to build Argyle airport?

    Their Boeing 737 – 200s is a short hall aeroplane, may get to Miami with refuelling en-route. Their airbus is not a long haul aircraft, in fact none of the fleet is really fit to fly beyond Miami.

  10. Peter thanks for the update. However I think we do need an airport, but Argyle was not my first choice. I believe and I could be wrong, that the present airport could have been upgraded to handle large aircrafts. I saw Amerijet ( I hope I have the spelling right) taking off at ET Joshua and wondered why the airport wasn’t extended to accommodate the larger carriers. The sea has a lot of real estate that is free and could have been utilized.
    Then there was Buccament that had no wind and heavy buyout problem like you have at Argyle. One has to believe that there is merit in the argument that much thought and planning wasn’t done on this project.

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