BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Commercial flights between Colombia and Venezuela resumed Monday as relations improve between the South American neighbors following the election of Colombia’s first leftist president.
The first flight to connect both countries was operated by Turpial, an airline owned by a retired Venezuelan air force coronel. Satena, which is owned by Colombia’s air force, will run the second flight between the countries, which is scheduled to take off from Bogota’s international airport Wednesday.
One way tickets for the 90-minute flight between Caracas and Bogota are selling on Turpial’s site for $240, a fee about twelve times Venezuela's monthy minimum wage. The cheapest one-way tickets on Satena's website are selling for $300.
Several airlines have applied to operate the route between Bogota and Caracas, including Latam, the largest carrier in Latin America, and Wingo, a budget airline owned by Copa Holdings.
So far only Turpial, Satena and Venezuelan airline Laser have permits from Venezuelan officials to operate the route.
Venezuela’s state-owned airline Conviasa had been granted a permit in September to run fligths between both countries but it was revoked by Colombian authorities following a U.S. government complaint. Conviasa was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2020, along with dozens of Venezuelan officials who have been accused of commiting human rights abuses.
After Conviasa was denied permission to operate on the route, Venezuelan officials cancelled a permit that had been granted to Wingo to start operating flights in October.
Venezuela broke off diplomatic ties with Colombia in 2019 after its then conservative government backed U.S.-led efforts to force Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to hold new elections. But flights between Colombia and Venezeuela functioned normally until the pandemic broke out in 2020 and airports shut down across South America.
In September, Colombia and Venezuela re-established diplomatic ties, following the election of Gustavo Petro, a leftist, to Colombia’s presidency. Petro has steered Colombia away from efforts to isolate Maduro, whose re-election in 2018 was considered to be fraudulent by dozens of countries.
Colombia’s new president is trying to work with Maduro on trade and security issues and has asked for Venezuela’s support in peace talks with the National Liberation Army, a rebel group that operates on both sides of the Colombia-Venezuela border.