Venezuela's state owned flag-carrier Conviasa is preparing to launch flights to Milan and Rome, filling the gap left by Alitalia in early June when the Italian carrier suspended operations to Venezuela.
In an interview on state TV, Venezuela's Minister of Sea and Air Transport Luis Graterol said that "Conviasa has filed for traffic rights to serve Rome with five and Milan with two weekly frequencies [from Caracas]."
"President [Nicolas] Maduro authorised the acquisition of two Airbus A330-300 aircraft to operate the routes," Graterol added. He did not say where the aircraft is being acquired from.
Last summer, during a state visit to France, Maduro had announced intentions to buy three Airbus A330 jets, as well as a number of ATR turboprops. In December 2013, Graterol's predecessor Hebert Garcia Plaza confirmed Conviasa's wish to acquire two A330-200s. At that point, rumours pointed at the acquisition of ex-Emirates aircraft, but these have not been confirmed.
Alitalia suspended flights on 2 June, as foreign carriers continue to face difficulties in repatriating revenue from Venezuela.
According to Conviasa's original plans announced in 2013, the incorporation of A330 aircraft would allow the airline to open new routes to Mexico City, Lima, Santiago and Montevideo.