American Airlines on Friday suspended flights to and from Venezuela amid unrest, further isolating the South American country.
American’s pilot union earlier on Friday said it told its members to refuse any trips to the country after the State Department told U.S. citizens to leave the country. It also pulled its diplomats from Venezuela.
Most U.S. airlines already halted service to Venezuela amid political and economic turmoil there. American was the last major U.S. airline to fly to Venezuela and sells flights from Miami to Caracas and to Maracaibo. The move threatens to further isolate the South American nation that is mired in a humanitarian crisis.
“The safety and security of our team members and customers is always number one and American will not operate to countries we don’t consider safe,” American said in a statement.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro cut ties with the U.S. in January after Washington recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s president. More than 50 other countries have recognized Guaido as the country’s president.
“Do not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure, and arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens,” the State Department said in its warning on Tuesday.
“Until further notice, if you are scheduled, assigned, or reassigned a pairing into Venezuela, refuse the assignment” and call chief pilots, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents about 15,000 American Airlines pilots, said in a note to its members late Thursday.
American Airlines did not immediately respond to request for comment. The airline’s two flights from Miami to Caracas were canceled on Friday, the airline’s website showed, but flights scheduled for Saturday appeared as scheduled.
The Association of Professional Flight Attendants that represents American’s 25,000 flight attendants said it supported the pilot union’s decision “100%.”
“Of course without the pilots, the flight’s not operating,” said Lori Bassani, APFA’s president.