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Transportation

Venezuela’s Biggest Airport Is in Free Fall

Since 2014, more than a dozen airlines have stopped operating from Maiquetía airport in Caracas because of the country’s political and economic crisis.
A road sign, next to a campaign poster of President Nicolás Maduro, indicates the way to Simón Bolívar International Airport, outside Caracas.
A road sign, next to a campaign poster of President Nicolás Maduro, indicates the way to Simón Bolívar International Airport, outside Caracas.Jorge Silva/Reuters

In 1976, you could fly from Caracas, Venezuela, to Paris in six hours, crossing the Atlantic Ocean aboard Air France’s Concorde. Only France, Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States were also regularly served by the futuristic supersonic aircraft. At the time, Venezuela’s oil-fueled economy was the richest in South America, and for air travelers, it was the continent’s best-connected state.  

In the decades since, Maiquetía International Airport (renamed Simón Bolívar International in 1972, but still widely known by its former name) boomed with taxiing 747s on intercontinental routes to Dublin, London, Amsterdam, and Zurich. Caracas also boasted several connections to major American hubs, such as Miami, New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and Atlanta, operated by both Venezuelan carriers and American, Delta, United, Braniff, and Pan-Am.