Business Aviation in Venezuela Series: Ground Handling
This is a post by author Walter Lindo. Walter is Managing Director for Universal Aviation Venezuela – Caracas. Walter is an expert on business aircraft operations in Venezuela and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Venezuela.
With permits no longer required for most stays of up to 72 hours in Venezuela, traffic to Caracas (SVMI) and other major destinations has increased. This has also increased demand for ground handling services, fuel, secure transport, and 4th-party services. Ground handling and service delays are possible without adequate advance notification.
The following is an overview of what you need to know about arranging ground handling in Venezuela:
1. Provide full information and sufficient lead time
It’s best to give your ground handler at least 12 hours’ notice when setting up ground handling and 4th-party services in Venezuela. Short-notice requests, however, can most likely be accommodated. Provide your ground handler with a full schedule, complete crew and passenger information, and requests for all services needed. It’s recommended to use ground handler credit for all fees, costs, and services while in Venezuela. If credit cannot be arranged, operators will need to pay cash on landing or prepay services, as credit cards are usually not accepted.
2. Check for outstanding navigation fees
It’s important to confirm, prior to operating to Venezuela, that you have no outstanding navigation (nav) fees. If fees are outstanding, your aircraft will be held on the ground until fees are settled, and this can be a multi-day process. If an aircraft was recently acquired, you may be responsible for outstanding nav fees incurred by previous owners, if you are using the same tail number. The operator must confirm directly with the Instituto Nacional de Aviacion (INAC) if nav fees, for your particular aircraft, are due. INAC authorities require you contact them directly and not utilize a 3rd-party provider.
3. Be aware of local regulations impacting ground handling
Airport authorities – along with a range of government offices, including the INAC (which is the Venezuelan Aviation Authority) and the secret police – must be pre-notified of all arrivals. By regulation all aircraft arriving and departing Venezuela are searched, and ground handlers must provide accurate estimated time of arrival and estimated time of departure to airport authorities. General declarations (gen decs) must be distributed – 22 copies – on both arrival and departure. For Venezuelan passengers the Venezuelan ID numbers must also be provided, along with the passport information, to your ground handler.
4. Know that all GA are treated as private non-revenue flights
Venezuela generally considers all general aviation (GA) flights to be private non-revenue, even if you’re operating charter (non-scheduled commercial). Best practice is to never use the word "charter" on any Venezuelan permit requests, as you’ll be considered a scheduled commercial operator, and different requirements must then be met. As a "commercial" operation, you’ll go to the main terminal, and GA ground handlers will not be able to assist you.
For diplomatic flights you’ll use a separate terminal for customs, immigration, and quarantine clearance, you’ll not be subject to navigation fees, and vehicles will be permitted to pick up/drop off passengers planeside, as long as local diplomatic contacts make the appropriate arrangements for this service.
5. Know that arrival/departure cards are required
Arrival/departure cards are needed for both crew and passengers. Your ground handler will prepare these cards for you. If this has not been done in advance, your ground handler will obtain information from crew/passengers passports on landing and prepare cards at that time for crew/passengers to sign.
6. Understand the ground handling workflow process
Once a ground handling request has been received, ensure that you inform your ground handler that you don’t have any outstanding nav fees with INAC. Requests for airport parking are usually submitted the day of arrival, and aircraft parking spots are confirmed 30 minutes prior to arrival, on a first-come-first-serve basis coordinated by the airport authority. Jet fuel uplifts should be submitted a minimum of eight hours in advance to avoid long delays. If you require secure transportation to town, it’s best to request this at least 24 hours in advance, due to high local demand for such services. Support services – including lavatory, water, and auxiliary power unit, are scarce in SVMI and should be arranged in advance to avoid delays.
7. Consider in-flight catering options
A minimum of 24 hours’ advance notice is recommended for in-flight catering requests. All on-airport caterers in Venezuela are commercial airline caterers, and for this reason many operators choose to have ground handlers source catering from hotels or restaurants. However, presently, due to a shortage of in-flight catering items in Venezuela, it’s recommended that you bring your own catering for your next departure. Suitable containers – appropriate to aircraft galley and re-heat equipment – should be provided to the hotel/restaurant.
8. Be aware that changes to schedule/manifest can impact ground handling services
For changes to schedule or manifest, your ground handler must revise the gen dec. For a change in tail number, 72 hours’ advance notice should be provided. At minimum notification must be provided prior to your departure for Venezuela. If a tail number change is not pre-notified, your aircraft will be detained on landing.
9. Know that government fees and 4th-party services can be arranged on credit
Ground handlers settle all government fees, with the exception of nav fees and 4th-party charges, and bill the operator, assuming credit has been arranged. Ramp and aircraft parking fees are calculated by airport authorities based on maximum takeoff weight and time of arrival. If operators pay cash for fuel and other services, the ground handler will be present to ensure that the process goes smoothly. Be aware that, due to currency controls, credit cards are often not accepted in Venezuela. You may bring up to 10,000 USD per passenger into the country, but be advised that currency must be exchanged by authorized vendors at the airport, and most are closed on weekends.
10. Confirm jet fuel credit arrangements prior to arrival
There is only one fuel company in Venezuela, and it’s government-owned and -operated. Not all major aviation fuel cards are accepted, and fuel releases may be necessary. In most cases you’ll not be able to use major oil company cards in Venezuela. Always confirm fuel uplift arrangements well in advance to avoid long delays.
11. Consider additional necessities when operating to secondary airports
International airports in Venezuela include SVMI, Margarita Island (SVMG), Ciudad Guayana (SVPR), and Valencia (SVVA). If you’re operating to smaller regional airports, advance notification is necessary, and landing permits must be obtained. Many smaller airports do not offer ground handling services, and some – including Canaima (SVCN) near Angel Falls – do not even have fire equipment available.
When you travel to Venezuela, best practice is to pre-confirm all service requests with your ground handler and ensure that you have credit established. To avoid lengthy delays, and possible detention of aircraft, confirm that you have no outstanding Venezuelan nav fees.
If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Venezuela, contact me at email@example.com.
Later, we’ll discuss airport operations for Venezuela and their impact on your trip.