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Viasa, Venezolana Internacional de Aviación, Sociedad Anónima - VIASA - was the result of a government decision in 1959 to transfer the international operations of Venezuela's government airline Línea Aeropostal Venezolana - (Aeropostal) - to a newly-created joint venture which, free from government interference, could adequately perform the task of serving as the nation's flag carrier.

Thus, Aeropostal put up 51% of the capital and private investors including AVENSA(owned then by Pan American Airways ) the remaining 49%. The board of directors came entirely from the private sector.

VIASA began its life as an entity in November 1960, placing an order for 2 Convair 880-22M and entering an agreement with KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines for a wet-lease of DC-8 equipment with which to begin operations to Europe as of April 1, 1961. KLM would maintain a nurturing relationship with VIASA for another 25 years.

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, Dominican Republic, Panamá, New Orleans, Maracaibo, Aruba, Curacao, Miami, Bogotá and Lima.

In 1963, VIASA pooled services with Iberia and Alitalia and received its 3rd. Convair which it sublet to KLM for its Dutch Antilles services (later transferred to ALM). Montego Bay and México were added. By 1965, its first DC-8-53 YV-C-VIC was delivered followed by a second DC-8-53 a year later (YV-C-VID)

In 1967 it began operations with a couple of DC-9-15s leased from Avensa and provided technical support to a Panamanian airline (PAISA) with routes to San José in Costa Rica, Panamá, Barranquilla (Colombia), Maracaibo and Caracas. Equally, it began flights to Trinidad and Barbados and signed a pool agreement with BOAC for the Caracas-Antigua-London route.

In December 1968 it received its first DC-8-63 followed by the second one in May 1969, standardizing its fleet on Douglas airliners.

It also formed a full-cargo subsidiary known as TRANSCARGA with a dry-leased DC-8F (N804SW) which flew from Caracas and Maracaibo to Miami, Panamá and New York.

VIASA's first and only ever fatal accident occurred on Sunday March 16th, 1969 at the old airport in Maracaibo where a DC-9-32 (also borrowed from Avensa) with barely a couple of weeks since delivery, crashed on take off falling on nearby blocks of flats and killing all on board plus an almost equal number on the ground.

In 1971, VIASA signed another agreement with KLM for the dry-leasing of 747-200 equipment as of April 1972, becoming the first Latin American airline to fly the type). PH-BUG was appropriately christened "Orinoco" after Venezuela's largest river and began operations from Caracas to Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam and, in the summer of 1973, to Rome, Milan, Maracaibo and Panamá.

With the arrival of its own Douglas DC-10-30 in April 1974 again thanks to KLM help, VIASA began a process of fleet standardisation based on the DC-10-30.

Unfortunately, by 1975 the airline, which had been a model of management and had returned a profit every year since its creation, began showing a disease typical of many other airlines, plagued by rising fuel costs and Union militancy, it posted its first ever loss for the fiscal October 1975-September 1976 year. The Government intervened by nationalising the airline and thus began its downturn, not noticeable at first since Venezuela's economy was strong backed by high oil income and the government did not mind pumping in money to cover ever mounting losses and horrible inefficiencies.

By 1979, VIASA had built up 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 it leased a couple of MD-82s for the Caribbean routes and for new flights from Barquisimeto, Barcelona and Porlamar to Miami but these were returned in 1984.

In 1985, it got rid of all its old DC-8s plus a DC-10-30 and kept just 5 DC-10-30s. It revamped its livery almost completely in 1986 by getting rid of the stars and the blue line by adopting a whiter body with 3-tone blue cheatlines under the windows. The orange tail kept the white VIASA letters which had been adopted in 1978 with the arrival of DC-10-30 YV-135C.

Two ex-Lufthansa Airbus A300-B4 jets were leased from GPA in 1987 for the US and South America service. In 1987, too, the airline was allowed for the first time ever to begin domestic services (something it never quite did as it preferred to stick to international routes instead) and make use of empty seats on the Caracas-Maracaibo and Caracas-Porlamar legs.

The red ink sadly continued to flow and, with the new government policies adopted as of 1989, VIASA became the immediate target of privatisation, the idea being that airline employees would retain a 20% shareholding, private investors an additional 60% and the State would keep the rest plus a Golden Share.

Iberia the Spanish flag carrier was the favoured bidder in August 1991 competing against trusted KLM with whom VIASA had had a working relationship lasting from 1960 till 1985. Iberia apparently milked the airline, its unions became even more rowdy at working practices they disliked, services deteriorated and, as the Spanish airline itself was nearly bankrupt (the Spanish government has claimed recently during Iberia's own privatisation, that it was worth just 1 peseta in 1996 before a massive rescue operation was put underway).

All its aircraft were placed under Iberia's ownership, the Airbuses were sent back to GPA, old ex-Iberia 727s were imposed on the airline (competing on the US routes versus American's 757s or A300-600s or United's 757s too) and all supplies were purchased centrally through Madrid (tales abound of flights without blankets, short of meals, etc. because of bureaucratic meddling and communication problems with Headquarters in Spain).

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

Viasas livery consisted of a 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. Viasa had agreements with Schabak and Gemini Jets to produce their die-cast airplane models, and with Hasegawa of Japan to produce their plastic plane models.


Viasa is remembered fondly by many Venezuelans. There have been attempts to revive the airline, and some of Viasa's routes have been handed over by the Venezuelan Government to other airlines but none has been able to establish the reputation and quality of in-flight service VIASA used to have. As it is, Venezuela has no major international airline to speak of.