Venezuela's Conviasa is working with several countries in the Caribbean to amend bilateral air transport agreements in order to improve air connectivity in the region and boost travel.
At the sidelines of the recent summit of the Association South American countries (UNASUR) held in Paramaribo, Suriname, the heads of state of Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname agreed to revise their bilateral agreements in order to stimulate air traffic between their countries.
To start with, Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro and his Suriname counterpart Desi Bouterse agreed that their respective national carriers Conviasa and Suriname Airways will start operating between Caracas and Paramaribo in November and will "coordinate" their operations.
A Venezuelan diplomatic source indicates that Maduro has also proposed to Guyana to grant Conviasa flag carrier status in addition to, or in substitution of, Caribbean Airlines, which was awarded this status by the Guyanese government only last May.
In late August, the Guyanese Ministry of Commerce threatened to withdraw Caribbean Airlines' flag carrier privileges, accusing it of abusing its monopolistic position by charging high fares, ultimately resulting in an apology from the Trinidad and Tobago-based airline.
However, Venezuela's attempts to position its state-owned airline as a major regional player may encounter political difficulties in its attempt to gain a special status in Guayana, as Venezuela has huge territorial claims over its Eastern neighbour.
Conviasa is under pressure to grow quickly to digest the growing capacity from its purchase of Embraer jets and it plans to acquire Airbus long-haul aircraft. Venezuela announced recently the negotiation of new liberal bilateral agreements with Panama and Nicaragua, which will award Venezuelan airlines ample fifth-freedom traffic rights to develop a presence in Nicaragua.
Separately, the civil aviation authorities of the Dominican Republic and Haiti have agreed to evaluate the integration of their aviation resources. The two countries' territory comprise the Hispaniola island, the Caribbean's second largest island after Cuba. This cooperation could include air traffic control and training resources, as well as the cooperation in the negotiation of air traffic agreements with other countries or regions.
Another initiative aimed at making intra-regional travel easier and potentially boost air traffic is the decision taken by several Caribbean countries to remove existing visa requirements for citizens of the region.