Why Flights from Venezuela are So Outrageously Expensive
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Buying a ticket from the US to Venezuela is easy and often cheaper than traveling to neighboring countries like Colombia. Finding a cheap ticket from Venezuela to any other country, on the other hand? Nearly impossible. Just look at Google Flights — where you’ll find that the cheapest round-trip flight from Caracas to New York at any time in the next six months is about $7,000.
That price reflects the going market rate for flights purchased in US dollars but converted from Bolívares. While there are cheaper ways to leave the country, the Venezuelan government blocks native Venezuelans from converting almost all money to other currencies, effectively trapping people who don’t have foreign bank accounts.
As of last year, Venezuelans could exchange up to the equivalent of $3,000 worth of Bolívares per year legally at the official pegged exchange rate of 6.4:1, but that amount is also subject to other limitations. On the black market, the exchange rate is about 800:1, a stark difference from the official rate. And since the Venezuelan government stopped converting airlines’ revenues from tickets bought in Bolívares to dollars (Venezuela owes more than $3.3 billion to airlines), international carries stopped accepting the currency as legal tender to buy tickets. In fact, if the current trend continues, Venezuela may soon become a no-fly zone. The air travel options for native Venezuelans continue to become even more dismal.
Effectively, the only way to leave the country for many locals is to use their precious yearly allowance of dollars to buy airline tickets. According to Yajaira Garcia, a native Venezuelan attending university in the United States, finding flights from her home city of Valencia to Miami is a tedious process, completely restricted by the government, and ticket prices have skyrocketed in recent years, often amounting to months of pay.
And this problem is not limited to native Venezuelans. Several airlines that still fly to Caracas will not sell tickets originating in the country. If foreign travelers don’t buy round-trip itineraries or wish to have flexible return dates, they could be faced with tickets costing several thousands of US dollars to return home.
But luckily for international travelers and Venezuelans who have access to foreign bank accounts, the major US airlines that fly to Caracas (American, Delta and United) don’t restrict the purchase of one-way flights from Caracas to foreign destinations. While flights from Caracas to New York cost $3,752 USD each way, American Airlines offers off-peak awards for just 15,000 miles + $105 USD in taxes. British Airways will charge just 10,000 Avios plus taxes for flights to Miami on American or to Lima on LAN. Delta and United also allow one-way flights starting from 17,500 miles.
If you were to book an American award for 15,000 miles from Caracas to New York and on to Los Angeles (the cheapest revenue ticket price on this route is about $3,700 USD each way), you could get 40 cents in value per point. Realistically, people could use overnight busses to Colombia or take boats to Caribbean islands for cheaper than the revenue ticket price, but using miles is a good, more convenient option.
Finally, remember to check the US travel advisory page and do extensive research before booking a trip to Venezuela as the political situation is deteriorating and basic goods are often hard to come by.
Do you have any tips for booking reasonable airfare to or from Venezuela? Feel free to share in the comments below!
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