Colombia’s flagship airline has grounded all flights to Caracas after a confusing mid-air intercept of one of its planes by Venezuela’s air force.
Avianca said that until further notice it’s also rerouting several flights to Europe to avoid Venezuelan air space.
“We’re waiting for them to guarantee the security conditions required to operate,” Avianca spokeswoman Gilma Usuga told The Associated Press.
The incident took place on a Bogota-bound flight that departed Friday from Madrid. The Boeing 787 with some 200 passengers aboard was cruising at a high altitude near Venezuela’s western border with Colombia when at 7:10 p.m. local time (00:10 GMT) another aircraft was spotted on radar flying at a short distance. The pilot immediately notified Colombian aviation authorities and sharply diverted from the flight path. Four minutes later, the military aircraft took off and the plane resumed its course, the Colombian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
More than 90 minutes after the flight landed safely in Bogota, Venezuela’s air defense authorities responded to repeated calls from their Colombian counterparts to say that the military aircraft was on a routine patrol.
Venezuelan officials have yet to comment on the incident, which comes amid a tension-filled standoff between President Nicolas Maduro and his opponents over the decision to suspend a recall referendum against the embattled socialist leader.
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