I really appreciate the careful elaboration and valuable data of your post Hernán, and I do agree with it to some extent. Nonetheless, I would like to discuss a couple of points.
As much as you know of Maracaibo's historic loss and current lack of international service, I expect you to be aware that the city's case is just one within numerous similar cases shared by other countries.
To illustrate, I'll use a pertinent coincidence, and will not go too far. Medellin, a metropolitan area with a population base of more than 3 million inhabitants, booming industry, Colombian and Latin American pioneer in providing best-quality public services, developing technologies in telecommunications and fashion-textiles capital city of the country, can testify that barely 6 daily international flights depart from its airport.
For starters, two daily runs to Miami, and there's no difference with Maracaibo until there. Two dailies to Panama City for obvious commercial and historical ties, not forgetting that one of them was barely launched 6 months ago and is performing below reasonably expected numbers. One daily flight to New York shared with Cali; and the cherry-on-top, the recently-launched nonstop flight to Caracas by Aeropostal, that was supposed to start no less than five years ago.
The airport was opened in 1985 as a reliever for the old air-terminal, but since then it has been pretty much a ghost town, with one or two Bogota-bound aircraft from time-to-time during the day. No, really, it is eye-catching to discover that almost 65% of the monthly travelers that use MDE
are either coming or headed to Bogota.
There's no need for another example to make my point, but if you wish to take Cali, for instance, the situation is no different.
As you correctly mention, secondary cities in Venezuela and Colombia are sure paying the price of a centralization around its capital cities. But that's the way it is, and hubbing is the formula that has made our airlines believe that making a dime under the current environment is still possible. I would love to see Avianca taking a hand full of jets and considering Medellin to place them, but it probably won't happen in the near-term, and even if the idea is not so wild, it imposes a much higher financial risk than to simply continue hubbing in Bogota.
So what's more left than to enjoy the possibility of having one or two dedicated international services as the added value for being a relatively important city, and to connect through the main hub in most cases, even if it means the unwanted burden of having to geographically backtrack in order to reach the final destination?.
Is the situation so extreme to make you pray for it? It depends. Maybe in a tourist-dependant city where resident literally need air-service to drag more people and full-pockets, I would understand it. But from then on, I see it as a luxury many would prefer over making a connection.
Of course, additional international service is always welcomed, as almost always there's more investment, tourism and employment coming with it. I hope people in Maracaibo now start praying that the flight will perform up to Copa's expectations.
[Edited 2006-05-03 05:08:15]