On a less politically charged note than you are likely used to by now from my blog, I wanted to share my concerns on an issue that is near and dear to me: Air travel to and from Venezuela.
Let me right away declare my interest in this particular post: my wife is Venezuelan and as a result I have a clear and obvious interest in being able to travel to Caracas easily and inexpensively. That however is nowhere near as simple as the premise of the question would suggest! You see, it costs about TT$3,500 to get from Port of Spain to Caracas and back... a distance, one way, of merely about 500 miles. One can get to New York or Miami for almost half that cost! Why?
The answer is because there is little or no competition on this particular route. Caribbean Airlines can fly their little Dash 8 planes that they use to go to Tobago for this route, charge a pound and a crown, make a huge profit and not bother with the needs of the travelling public between the two countries. Aeropostal used to fly the route, but they ran into financial difficulties which I am not certain that they have survived. If you have the time and the inclination (neither of which I really have), you can fly from Port of Spain to Miami and then down to Caracas, back to Miami and then back to Port of Spain for more or less what you will pay for a direct flight from here to Caracas. Crazy!
And this leads to another point. If you think that there is no real need for more aircraft or bigger aircraft to ply the route you would be wrong. Try and get a ticket to go to Caracas and come back to Trinidad in December or the first two weeks of January. You will be shocked to know that it would be extremely difficult... not impossible, but as difficult as a snowball’s chances of surviving on Maracas Beach on a sunny day!
Clearly there is a great deal of transit between Trinidad and Venezuela. Equally clearly neither of the two governments are paying much attention (at least they don’t appear to be paying attention) to the traffic between the two countries nor do they seem particularly keen on expanding it. And again, the question is why? Or more aptly, why not? Venezuela has (in comparison to ours) a huge population and therefore a large captive market just next door. Why aren’t we looking to the west as much as we look to the north?
I am not here trying to promote Mr. Chavez, nor am I trying to put him down. As far as I am concerned from a Trinidadian perspective it is for the Venezuelans to deal with their own internal politics, just as it is for us Trinbagonians to do the same. Countries don’t have friends, they have interests. And surely it is in our interests to have better and easier access to Venezuela than we have now? Surely it is in our best interests to have more and better trade with our Latin neighbour than we do now? What do you think?