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Viasa logo.gif
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded November 1960 (1960-11)
Ceased operations January 1997 (1997-01)
Destinations 46
Headquarters Caracas, Venezuela
Key people

Venezolana Internacional de Aviación Sociedad Anónima (English: JSC Venezuelan International Airways), or VIASA for short, was the Venezuelan flag carrier between 1960 and 1997.[1] It was headquartered in the Torre Viasa in Caracas.[2][3] Launched in 1960, it was nationalised in 1975 due to financial problems, and re-privatised in 1991, with the major stake going to Iberia. The company ceased operations in January 1997 (1997-01), and went into liquidation.[4][5]


Early years[edit]

A Netherlands-registered Douglas DC-8-53 in VIASA livery. (1965)
Viasa Douglas DC-9-14 operating a scheduled service at Miami International Airport in 1971
A Netherlands-registered McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 at Zürich Airport in VIASA livery with additional KLM titles, in 1978. The aircraft was leased from KLM.

Viasa was envisioned by the government of Venezuela in 1959 to create a new company that could serve as the country's flag carrier and run without government intervention. It was set up in 1960 when the international routes operated by Línea Aeropostal Venezolana (LAV) and Avensa were merged and taken over by the newly created carrier.[6][7] The government contributed 55% of the capital, while private investors — among which were LAV and Avensa, the latter owned by Grupo Boulton and Pan American World Airways—contributed with the remainder.[6] The board of directors came entirely from the private sector.[citation needed] The first president of the airline was Mr. R. van den Branden;[6] the first chairman of the board was Mr. Oscar Augusto Machado Zuloaga, a very competent and well liked gentleman, who was instrumental in Viasa's commercial success and immediate acceptance by the market.

Viasa began as an entity in November 1960 (1960-11).[citation needed] In early 1961, the airline signed an agreement with KLM to operate a Douglas DC-8 on Viasa's behalf, aimed at starting operations to Europe in April that year;[6][8] KLM maintained a nurturing relationship with Viasa for another 24 years. In the same year, Avensa transferred two Douglas DC-6Bs to the company, as well as an order for a Convair 880-22M.[9] Viasa boosted their Convair 880 order by purchasing another one. The airline flew the type mostly on routes to North America.[10][11][12] Also in 1961, the airline joined the International Air Transport Association, becoming its overall 89th member.[13] In 1963, Viasa started a commercial agreement with Iberia and KLM for the operations through the mid-Atlantic.[14] The same year, a third Convair 880 was ordered;[10] later that year, the type was chartered to KLM for flying on the Dutch airline's Caribbean routes.[15] Until the first DC-8-50 the company had ordered in early 1965 was delivered, long-haul services using the type were provided with wet-leased aircraft from KLM.[16] By April 1966 (1966-04), the first DC-8-50 was already forming part of the company's fleet along with the three Convair 880s, while an additional DC-8-50 was on order.[17] To complement these two DC-8-50s, the carrier ordered two Douglas DC-8-63s in early 1967.[18] Two Convair 880s were sold to Cathay Pacific in mid-1967.[19] Also in 1967, Viasa started up a Panamanian airline named Panameña Internacional de Aviación SA (PAISA), with KLM support; This company started operations on 3 May 1967 with two DC-9-10s leased to VIASA from Avensa, which were in turn sub-leased to PAISA.[20] In 1968, VIASA set up a wholly owned, non-IATA member, national cargo airline named Transportes Aereos de Carga SA, more commonly known as Transcarga, which in its beginnings served Caracas, Curaçao, Maracaibo, Miami and New York.[21]

VIASA leased this Boeing 747-200B from KLM in 1972. The aircraft wore a mixed livery during the lease agreement, wiith the port side in KLM colours, and its starboard with a VIASA decor.[22][23]

By March 1970 (1970-03), Viasa's fleet strength was eight: two DC-8-63s, two DC-8-50s, a DC-8-50F, a Convair 880, and two DC-9-10s.[24]:509 In November 1971 (1971-11) Viasa renewed the pool agreement with KLM and Iberia on their Caribbean–Europe services;[25] to this purpose the company signed another agreement with KLM in 1972, this time for the lease of a Boeing 747-200B that was put on service on a weekly round-trip Caracas–Madrid–Paris flight in April 1972 (1972-04).[23] This event was a milestone for Viasa, as it became the first South American carrier in operating wide-body aircraft across the Atlantic.[23] Through KLM, the company also placed an order for two McDonnell Douglas DC-10s the same year, and bought two Douglas DC-8-33s from the Dutch carrier as well.[23][26] Also in 1972, the route network saw the incorporation of Washington and Toronto.[23]

With the lease of a Douglas DC-8-50 from KLM in 1974, and the sale of two aircraft of the same type to Aeroperú the same year,[27][28] by March 1975 (1975-03) the Viasa's fleet consisted of two DC-8-63s, one DC-8-50, two DC-8-30s, and one DC-10-30, while another DC-10-30 was yet to be delivered.[29]:510 At a cost of US$30,000,000 (equivalent to $126,263,158 in 2016), another DC-10-30 was ordered in 1976, followed by an order for three more of these aircraft in July 1977 (1977-07).[30][31]

In 1983, Viasa took delivery of two McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Super 80s.[32] The early 1980s marked an overturn in the carrier's finances, as both the worldwide collapse of oil prices in the decade and the subsequent 1983 devaluation of the bolivar affected the airline, which suffered a 41% drop in year-on-year traffic in 1983 and had accumulated a debt of Bs210 million in 1984.[33] Only that year, the crisis forced the company's workforce to be cut by 30%, the fleet to be reduced —partly because of noise restrictions within the United States—, and some Caribbean destinations to be dropped.[33][34] Likewise, competition increased on some routes, most notably Miami and New York, where Viasa was the erstwhile sole operator, or it had a single competitor at most.[33] In early 1988, the fleet consisted of only five DC-10s, and two Airbus A300s acquired from Lufthansa through a leasing agreement, that were deployed mostly on domestic and regional routes.[33]


A VIASA McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 at Fiumicino Airport, Rome, Italy. (1987)

Viasa had been a model of good management and it had returned a profit every year since its creation. Viasa posted its first ever loss for the October 1975 – September 1976 fiscal year, plagued by rising fuel costs and union problems. The government nationalised the airline and began its downturn. This was not noticeable at first, since Venezuela's strong economy was backed by high oil revenue and the government did not mind pumping in money to cover mounting losses.

By 1979, Viasa had built a fleet of 6 DC-10-30s, 2 DC-8-63s, 2 DC-8-53s and 1 DC-8-63F.

In the summer of 1982, Viasa leased a couple of MD-82s from KLM for Caribbean routes and for new flights from Barquisimeto, Barcelona and Porlamar to Miami. These were returned to KLM in 1984.

In 1985, Viasa got rid of all its DC-8s plus one DC-10-30 and kept just five DC-10-30s. It revamped its livery almost completely in 1986, adopting a whiter body with three-tone blue cheatlines under the windows. The orange tail retained the white Viasa letters adopted in 1978 with the arrival of DC-10-30 YV-135C.

Two former Lufthansa Airbus A300-B4 jets were leased from GPA in 1987 for United States and South American services. In the same year, for the first time ever, VIASA began domestic services and made use of empty seats on the Caracas-Maracaibo and Caracas-Porlamar routes.


A VIASA McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in 1996. The aircraft is wearing the livery used by the company throughout the Iberia management.

The red ink continued to flow and, with the new government policies adopted in 1989, Viasa became a target for privatisation.[citation needed] The initial plans of the government were to allocate 60% of the company to private investors, keep 20% of the shares, and transfer the balance to the airline workers. In June 1991 (1991-06), Iberia and KLM were approved as bidders in the privatisation process, the former teaming up with Venezuela's Banco Provincial, and the latter partnering with Northwest Airlines and another four local entities.[35] Iberia was the only bidder left with an US$145.5 million offer, after KLM stepped aside citing that a price of US$81 million for 60% of the shares was too high.[36]

Iberia apparently milked the airline, (some Venezuelans point at this as one of Viasa's causes of bankruptcy). While it could be argued that it was not wise to sell a government owned leasing company to another government owned leasing company, changing the old ways of Viasa was an uphill battle. All its aircraft were placed under Iberia's ownership, the Airbuses were sent back to GPA, former Iberia 727s were used by Viasa (competing on the US routes versus American's 757s or A300-600s and United's 757s) and all supplies were purchased centrally through Madrid.

The airline closed for good under acrimony and very sour labour relations in January 1997.


Viasa was the only Latin American airline that flew jet aircraft since its creation, starting with services to the Azores, Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Milan, Amsterdam and London in April 1961, and, after the delivery of its two Convair 880-22M planes, to New York, the Dominican Republic, Panama, New Orleans, Maracaibo, Aruba, Curaçao, Miami, Houston, Bogotá and Lima.

For many years, Viasa offered service on the route between Simón Bolívar International Airport and Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. This route was one of the first to be cut-off after Viasa ended their relationship with KLM.


Viasa previously operated the following aircraft:[37]


The airline's livery consisted of silver on the belly, white on the top part of the fuselage color, with orange and blue cheatlines that went all the way to the start of the tail. The fuselage featured the name Viasa written in orange on top of the cheatlines. The tail was all orange, with the name Viasa in white. After Iberia took over, all the fuselage went white, and so did the tail. The cheatlines were made thicker around the plane's cockpit, to resemble Iberia's planes.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

According to Aviation Safety Network, Viasa experienced five accidents/incidents events throughout its history, with two of them being deadly ones, yielding a combined death toll of 216 fatalities, plus a hijacking episode.[38] The two deadly accidents occurred with leased aircraft.[38] Following is a list of the events that carried with the hull-loss of the aircraft involved. The worst accident experienced by the company, and also the worst aviation disaster at the time it took place, occurred in March 1969 (1969-03), and killed all 84 occupants of the aircraft plus 71 people on the ground.[39]

Date Location Aircraft Tail number Aircraft damage Fatalities Description Refs
30 May 1961 PortugalOff Fonte da Telha DC-8-53 PH-DCL W/O 61/61 The aircraft, leased from KLM, was due to operate the third leg of an international scheduled Rome–MadridLisbonSanta MariaCaracas passenger service as Flight 897, when it plunged into the sea shortly after takeoff from Portela Airport, 3 km (1.9 mi) east-northeast of Fonte da Telha. [40]
29 June 1968 NetherlandsAmsterdam DC-8-53 PH-DCH W/O 0 The aircraft was destroyed by fire while undergoing maintenance at Schiphol Airport owing to an explosion in one of its engines. The aircraft was on lease from KLM. [41]
16 March 1969 VenezuelaMaracaibo DC-9-32 YV-C-AVD W/O 155 Leased from AVENSA, the aircraft was due to operate the second leg of an international scheduled Caracas–Maracaibo–Miami passenger service as Flight 742, when it performed a long take-off at Grano de Oro Airport, hit powerlines, and plunged into a nearby crowded neighborhood of the city. All 84 occupants of the aircraft perished in the accident, plus 71 people on the ground. [42]
26 November 1993 ArgentinaBuenos Aires DC-10-30 YV-135C W/O 0/123 Inbound from Caracas as Flight 940, the aircraft started aquaplaning immediately after touchdown in bad weather at Ezeiza Airport. Overran the runway threshold by 180 m (590 ft). The nosegear collapsed, causing both port and starboard engines to strike the ground. [43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "No flag in its future". Flightglobal. Airline Business. 1 May 1999. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 30 March 1985. 130." Retrieved on 17 June 2009. "Head Office: Torre Viasa, Avenida Sur 25, Plaza Morelos, Caracas 105, Venezuela"
  3. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 26 March 1988. 125.
  4. ^ "'Amicable' Viasa liquidation agreed". Flightglobal. Flight International. 26 February 1997. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  5. ^ "Viasa wreckage". Flightglobal. Airline Business. 1 January 1997. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d "DC-8s and Convair 880s for Viasa". Flight: 419. 30 March 1961. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  7. ^ "Brevities". Flight: 933. 9 December 1960. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. An airline merger is reported from Venezuela: LAV and Avensa are to be merged together as VIASA. 
  8. ^ "Brevities". Flight: 226. 17 February 1961. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. KLM has signed an agreement with VIASA of Venezuela for technical, operational and commercial co-operation. VIASA is to lease a KLM DC-8 with crew for services between Caracas and Rome, Paris, London and Amsterdam next April. 
  9. ^ "World airlines survey...—Aerovias Venezonalas SA – AVENSA". Flight: 483. 13 April 1961. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. The international services of AVENSA and LAV have now been merged to form VIASA, in which AVENSA has a small holding, and to which the two DC-6Bs and the Convair 880 on order are now transferred. 
  10. ^ a b "New 880 Order". Flight International: 134. 24 January 1963. Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2013. Viasa has purchased a third Convair 880M for delivery in April. The airline's two 880s link Caracas with New York, Miami and New Orleans. 
  11. ^ a b "World airlines survey...—Venezolana International de Aviacion SA – VIASA". Flight: 512. 13 April 1961. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "Brevities". Flight. 79 (2715): 385. 23 March 1961. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. The new Venezuelan international airline Viasa has ordered a second Convair 880-M. The first will be delivered in May and the second in September, and they will be used for services from Caracas to New York, Miami/New Orleans, and Bogota/Lima. 
  13. ^ "Brevities". Flight. 79 (2724): 725. 25 May 1961. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. VIASA has become an active member of IATA, bringing the total membership to 89. 
  14. ^ "KLM AFFAIRS" (PDF). Flight International: 493. 11 April 1963. Retrieved 18 November 2011. 
  15. ^ "Two DC-8Fs for KLM" (PDF). Flight International: 938. 13 June 1963. Retrieved 19 November 2011. KLM recently concluded an agreement with VIASA to charter Convair 880s for its Caribbean routes... 
  16. ^ "AIR TRANSPORT..." (PDF). Flight International: 6. 7 January 1965. Retrieved 8 December 2011. A DC-8-50 has been ordered by VIASA, the Venezuelan carrier, for delivery in the autumn of this year. VIASA's long-haul services are at present operated by KLM DC-8s on wet lease. 
  17. ^ "WORLD AIRLINE SURVEY... – Venezolana Internacional de Aviacion SA (VIASA)" (PDF). Flight International: 639. 14 April 1966. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  18. ^ "DC-8-63s for VIASA" (PDF). Flight International: 193. 9 February 1967. Retrieved 8 December 2011. Two DC-8-63s, the capacity and range-stretched variant in the 60 series, have been ordered by VIASA, of Venezuela. Deliveries are scheduled for late 1968 and early 1969. VIASA already has two DC-8-50s in operation. 
  19. ^ "MARKET MOVEMENTS" (PDF). Flight International: 885. 1 June 1967. Retrieved 8 December 2011. Cathay Pacific has bought VIASA's two Convair 880s to bring its fleet of this type to six. 
  20. ^ "WORLD AIRLINE SURVEY... – Panameña de Aviación Internacional SA (PAISA)" (PDF). Flight International: 586. 10 April 1969. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  21. ^ "World Airlines – Transportes Aereos de Carga SA (Transcarga)" (PDF). Flight International: 649. 6 May 1971. Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  22. ^ "Air Transport...". Flight International. 101 (3285): 284. 24 February 1972. Archived from the original on 4 September 2013. The Venezuelan national carrier, Viasa, is leasing this KLM 747B for use on the Caracas-Paris route. But the Dutch airline will also be using the aircraft, which still carries KLM colours on the port side 
  23. ^ a b c d e "Viasa's wide bodies" (PDF). Flight International: 896. 22 June 1972. Retrieved 4 January 2012. 
  24. ^ "WORLD AILINES 1970... – VIASA (Venezolana Internacional de Aviacion SA)" (PDF). Flight International: 508 – 509. 26 March 1970. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  25. ^ "World Airline Survey – VIASA (Venezolana Internacional de Aviacion SA)". Flight International: 477 – 478. 22 March 1973. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  26. ^ "Viasa Buys DC-l0s" (PDF). Flight International: 516. 20 April 1972. Retrieved 4 January 2012. The Venezuelan national carrier Viasa is to buy two McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s, previously taken on option by KLM. 
  27. ^ "World airlines update – Aeroperú" (PDF). Flight International: 512. 17 October 1974. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  28. ^ "World airlines update – Viasa" (PDF). Flight International: 516. 17 October 1974. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  29. ^ "World airline directory – Viasa-Venezuelan International Airways" (PDF). Flight International: 509 – 510. 20 March 1975. Retrieved 5 January 2012. 
  30. ^ "Airliner market" (PDF). Flight International: 310. 30 July 1977. Retrieved 6 January 2012. Venezuelan flag carrier Viasa is doubling its McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 fleet with an order for three of the type. 
  31. ^ "Airliner market" (PDF). Flight International: 1481. 5 June 1976. Retrieved 6 January 2012. Viasa of Venezuela has ordered a third McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 for delivery next April. Cost is $30 million. 
  32. ^ "Marketplace". Flight International: 170. 22 January 1983. Archived from the original on 2 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013. Viasa, the Venezuelan flag carrier, has received two McDonnell Douglas DC-9 Super 80s under a previously unannounced order. This order brings to 23 the number of airlines to order the type. Viasa's Super 80s are to be used on its short-to-medium international routes from Caracas. They are being flown to such destinations as St Maarten, Aruba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Miami, Trinidad and Tobago, and Bogota. 
  33. ^ a b c d
  34. ^ "Viasa in trouble". Flight International. 125 (3916): 1382. 26 May 1984. ISSN 0015-3710. Archived from the original on 4 September 2013. 
  35. ^ "Venezuela Airline Drawing Bidders". The New York Times. Reuters. 29 June 1991. Archived from the original on 28 February 2013. 
  36. ^ "Iberia to Get Viasa Stake". The New York Times. Reuters. 10 August 1991. Archived from the original on 28 February 2013. 
  37. ^ "SubFleets for: VIASA Venezuelan International Airways". AeroTransport Data Bank. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  38. ^ a b "Accident record for Viasa". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 15 December 2011. 
  39. ^ "Sabotage ruled out in aviation's worst crash". Evening Herald. Rock Hill. 18 March 1969. 
  40. ^ Accident description for PH-DCL at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 26 November 2011.
  41. ^ Incident description for PH-DCH at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 26 November 2011.
  42. ^ Accident description for YV-C-AVD at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 3 December 2011.
  43. ^ Incident description for YV-135C at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on 26 November 2011.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Viasa at Wikimedia Commons