CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Travel websites like Expedia and
Orbitz have quietly stopped selling airline tickets for Venezuela amid recent
political turmoil, further isolating the socialist-run country after years of
declining flight service.
On Thursday, it was impossible to find on the popular
websites any Venezuelan cities in the drop-down list of booking options for
hotels and flights to the South American country.
Expedia Group (owner of Expedia.com and Orbitz) said the
company was acting on behalf of travelers' well-being and in accordance with
recent travel advice by foreign governments about crime and civil unrest.
"Once governmental advice reaches a certain level of
travel concern, we take action to close off destinations on our sites,"
spokeswoman Sarah Gavin told the Associated Press. "This 'stop sell' will
remain in effect until the situation in Venezuela improves and travel advice
The move comes after the U.S. State Department on Jan. 29
said Americans shouldn't travel to Venezuela, warning of unrest and the threat
of arbitrary arrest and detention in the wake of President Nicolas Maduro's
decision to sever diplomatic relations with the U.S.
In raising its travel advisory to the highest level,
Venezuela joins a handful of mostly war-torn countries -- Yemen, South Sudan
and Libya -- that the U.S. government has classified as "Do Not Travel"
The same advisory urged Americans to "consider
departing while commercial flights are available."
For Venezuelans, as well as the few foreign business
travelers and journalists who still make their way to the country, travel
options have seen a steep drop-off as the country has plunged deeper into
economic chaos marked by 7-digit hyperinflation and widespread shortages.
American Airlines, with two flights daily from Caracas to
Miami, is the only remaining U.S. carrier providing service to the country
after Delta and United Airlines pulled out in 2017 amid a political crisis that
has forced millions to flee the country.
Around the same time, several European and Latin American
airlines also pulled out. Meanwhile Spain's Iberia and Portugal's TAP have
recently added stops in the Caribbean for their transatlantic flights so crews
don't have to spend the night in the strife-torn country.
If you want to go local, the few financially struggling
Venezuelan carriers fly older planes and have a spotty safety record. In 2017,
Avior Airlines, one of the country's biggest, was banned from European Union
skies after a commission determined it no longer met international safety
Many expect the travel headaches to worsen now that the U.S.
has slapped sanctions on Venezuela's state-run oil company, making it harder to
import jet fuel and other petroleum products.