Wow: Venezuelan Airline Leasing A380

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Estelar Latinoamerica is a Venezuelan airline based in Caracas. The airline has a small fleet consisting of just six ancient 737s (three 737-200s and three 737-300s), and they’re also currently leasing an A340 from Portuguese leasing company Hi Fly to operate some of their longer routes.

While Estelar usually leases an A340 from Hi Fly, that plane is currently undergoing maintenance, so they’re substituting in another plane.

Specifically, for the next couple of weeks Hi Fly will be operating Estelar Latinoamerica flights with their A380. Yes, this is the same A380 I’ve been talking about quite a bit, as Hi Fly acquired the plane last year from Singapore Airlines, though has struggled to find customers for it.

The plane is currently enroute from Madrid to Caracas, and it’s expected that the plane will operate routes for up to two weeks, including to Madrid and Buenos Aires.

Twitter user @Enrique77W notes that the operations at the airport have to be daytime only, and that they will only be using the lower deck of the plane, as the upper deck will allegedly be completely blocked off. On this configuration there’s first class (which Singapore branded as “Suites”) and economy on the lower deck, and business class on the upper deck.

This is an absolutely fascinating charter operation, and I have so many questions, including:

  • Are they going to be stationing the Hi Fly employees in Caracas, in spite of safety concerns? A lot of airlines have stopped flying to Caracas specifically because of crew safety concerns.
  • What’s their contingency plan in the event that there’s a mechanical problem with the plane in Venezuela?

If you want to track the whereabouts of this plane, here’s flight tracking software for the plane, which has registration code 9H-MIP.

I continue to wonder what exactly Hi Fly was thinking with their A380 acquisition. Even at a time when you’d think there would be a need for charter planes (given 787 and 737 MAX issues), they can’t seem to find a long term customer.

Instead just about all of their leases seem to be really short term, and be for situations where the A380’s capacity isn’t needed…

  1. What was Hi Fly thinking? Surely that they could get the A380 cheap. And the biggest concerns many airlines have had taking the used jets is the reconfiguration cost, Willie Walsh says that’s why he walked away from taking some. Hi Fly has no such problems.

    However even if the acquisition cost is low, the operating costs are pretty high especially if you aren’t able to fill the aircraft – something very hard for most airlines on most routes most days of the week.

  2. If the flight was coming from say MAD and the next flight would be to EZE, I’d think that the outbound crew will continue on that flight to EZE as pax and not stay in Caracas. This is indeed a very interesting lease. Either way, the passengers are in for a treat.

  3. The whole country starving and millions of refugees leaving Venezuela. But they are leasing an A380 and blocking off the upper deck so that the Boligarchs can travel to Buenos Aires and Madrid and post Instagram stories from the Suites without being bothered by the riff-raff. Socialism at its finest!

  4. If they are blocking the upstairs, they could use it for a full second crew and never need to leave anyone in Caracas.

  5. I assume that Hi Fly is simply switching it straight, without any additional fees (seeing as it’s their A340 that is under maintenance)?

    @Michael, what a nonsense comment – surely you are joking.

  6. Again flying a double deck plane but with only a limited number of pax. Who is running this HiFly project, it makes no sense. And how much of a premium for an A380 can Estelar pay? I’m guessing none over their regular charter. Is this the big summer charter customer that HiFly was boasting of earlier this year???

    I noticed on Routes Online that this airline will run limited flights to Lisbon this summer too presumably using a HiFly plane.

  7. I think it’s part of the maintenance and a Portuguese – Venezuela business. I agree partially with @Dennis but I’m sure there’s money involved. I also imagine that Venezuela is filthy rich of petroleum for a start.

  8. Looks like hi-fly have some pretty major aircraft availability issues so this was probably the only option

    9H-SOL has been on the ground in Caracas since 11th July, 9H-FOX on the ground in Boston since 13th July. At least 3 other frames haven’t flown for a good while & 9H-SUN operating for Norwegian Gatwick-Orlando appears to have been covered by their own 787 a couple of times recently (as well as that flight operating late EVERY DAY!)

  9. I wouldn’t be too worried as crew, slipping in CCS.

    At BA we’ve just started slipping in Islamabad which is a bit of a hot mess of the city. And until recently we were slipping in Tehran without issue.

  10. The only city we served in recent years where it was deemed too unsafe to slip was Freetown, Sierra Leone. We’d operate LHR-FNA-ROB and slip in Monrovia.

    Occasionally when LOS becomes a bit dicey BA sought dispensation from the CAA to close the upper deck of the jumbo and deadhead the inbound crew out using the U/D as crew rest but this has been rare. Usually we have armed private security escorts front and back of the crew transport to the crew hotel where we are effectively under house arrest for 24 hours lol

  11. This airline was sold to very shady businessman with great links and relations to the corrupt Venezuelan government. They obtained the CCS-MAD route in a controversial way. Even more suspicious was where the sources of funds for a Hi Fly A340 lease would come from. Having the regular A340 in mainteneance in the summer season has pushed the operation to its limit since many passengers get constantly stuck at airports due this precarious operation run by crooks and a charter company with no back up aircraft

  12. Flee on Airbus no more walking to Cuccuta!!! Or Better Chavistas take your Gold and Portugal is waiting for you With they’r Golden Visa!!

  13. Let’s suppose that at the end of the lease, the airline refuses to return it. Good luck trying to repossess that $400 million asset in Venezuelan courts.

  14. @Michael nailed it!

    @Galo Rand Refreshing to read so well informed comment. You saved me from writing a longer comment.

    As for the other clueless comments, yes, it has everything to do wit the real face of Socialism

    @duck ling you have no Idea , for the few daring airlines that still operate, a few months ago the bus taking the UX crew to the Airport Hotel I always staying at, was followed in bikes and shot in a hijack attempt (in the very short trip from CCS airport to the only decent nearby hotel), lucky they were, no one was hurt or robbed. But i’m quite sure they’ll deeply disagree with you.

    I tried to book myself on the very first A380 departing my country but my city only have ONE weekly flight (yes, THAT’S Socialism for the other blind manipulated commenters) and the 5 hour road trip is as dangerous as you could never imagine, so dangerous indeed its been aprox 12 years that I don’t take that drive.

    The ops timetable for the following days:

    ES895 CCS MAD A380-800 15-July-2019
    ES894 MAD CCS A380-800 16-July-2019
    ES8569 CCS EZE A380-800 17-July-2019
    ES8568 EZE CCS A380-800 17-July-2019

  15. The A380 is the ideal escape vehicle for Chavista’s to exit Venezuela. No loss of upper class image. Plus privacy from cheap seats.

  16. I have never seen an A380 in EZE, Correct me if I’m wrong, but the terminals as far as I know, are not prepared for it. Maybe they offload all the passengers at the remote. The only airport ready in south America is GRU. Sometimes Emirates operates the A380 there.

  17. duck ling – Why on Earth would you think Tehran is similar to Caracas? They are not remotely similar…

    BBK – Ignorant rubbish. Venezuela would have the exact same issues if it was a capitalist based system with the same corrupt people in charge. There’s a reason why the safest, wealthiest and happiest countries in the world tend towards socialism.

    You make the same stupid argument as the idiots who think capitalism is always bad. Pure socialism has issues just like pure capitalism does. It’s not an either/or scenario.

  18. Oh I saw it coming, Surprise! I am old enough (highly probable older than you) to compare the Capitalist version of my Country and it was the exact opposite of what it became when the leftist s*cum took power, and managed the great majority poor (the ultimate goal of socialism).

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