By 1971 VIASA had been in operation for eleven years and had built up an excellent regional and long haul network that connected Venezuela to the world and made it one of the premier airlines of South America. It was also strongly profitable and ready to take the leap into the widebody era that its agreement with KLM offered it. The 1970s would prove to be the heyday of the airline as Venezuela boomed so did its national airline. Unfortunately the 1980s would bring some painful times for both country and flag carrier.
In April 1973 the 747's routing altered to Caracas to Madrid, Paris and Amsterdam or Maracaibo to Panama, Milan and Rome. The aircraft rejoined KLM in late January 1974. Instead VIASA opted for the more sensibly sized option of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30. Once again it used its relationship with KLM and took two of its DC-10 orders for itself. In 1972/73 it had already acquired a pair of older ex-KLM DC-8-33s and then in 1974/76 took three ex-KLM DC-8-53s, which replaced its original pair of DC-8-54s, which were sold to AeroPeru.
"The happy-go-lucky feel of Venezuelan bureaucracy then crept into the airline's labour ethic and it became a sad haven of gross mismanagement, nepotism, opportunism and open graft."
The airline began to lose its way and at the same time faced increasing competition from US airlines. The fleet continued to increase in size with a 4th DC-10, PH-DTL, joining from KLM in 1977. The pair of elderly DC-8-33s left the fleet in 1976/77 but 3 further DC-10s arrived in 1978/79 direct from McDonnell Douglas giving a fleet of 7 DC-10s, 2 DC-8-63s and 3 DC-8-53s. New destinations for the DC-10s included the holiday island of Porlamor from New York in November 1977, Santiago on December 1, 1978 and Houston on December 12, 1978.
Despite the fleet increase and state ownership the airline remained profitable until 1979. Indeed it has been profitable for every year of its existence up until then. The route of its first loss was not of the airline's own making. The crash of an American Airlines DC-10 at Chicago on May 25, 1979 forced the grounding of the entire worldwide DC-10 fleet for nearly 3 weeks. With such a large portion of its fleet made up of the DC-10 VIASA was disproportionately hit.
Venezuela's spending and purchasing of interests to be nationalised led to the increase of national debt and when the oil revenue collapsed in the early 1980s the Venezuelan economy was crippled. The Venezuelan currency was steeply devalued on February 18, 1983 and Venezuela's place as one of the wealthiest South American nations began to slip. Standards of living fell dramatically. Over the next four years the Venezuelan Bolivar fell from 4:1 against the US dollar to 33:1.
The 747s were hired again in 1983 but that would be the last year they could be afforded. VIASA's debts began to accrue alarmingly and the airline lost $75 million in 1983 alone. The last two DC-8-53s left the fleet in March 1984 along with one of the series 63s. The last DC-8 was gone by August 1986. Even one of the DC-10s succumbed and was sold to American Airlines in June 1984. The fleet was reduced to just 6 DC-10-30s by the end of 1986.