LAN and TAM suspend ticket sales in Bolivia

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Chile's LAN and the Paraguayan subsidiary of Brazil's TAM, TAM Mercosur, have temporarily suspended ticket sales in Bolivia even as they continue to operate flights in the Latin American country.

The suspension comes after the Bolivian Telecommunications and Transport Authority (ATT) told the airlines earlier this month that their commercial licenses have expired.

The carriers informed local travel agents on 22 February that they were suspending ticket sales. In a note sent to Bolivia's association of travel agencies Abavyt, LAN and TAM Mercosur said that "operations will be normal and all tickets will be honoured" because their operational permits remain fully active.

Foreign airlines operating to Bolivia need an operational permit from the country's civil aviation authority DGAC and a commercial license from the ATT.

The routes affected by the suspension of ticket sales are Santiago-Iquique-La Paz, Santiago-Iquique-Santa Cruz and Asuncion-Santa Cruz.

Both airlines expressed hope that ticket sales can be resumed shortly.

The unusual step by ATT to suspend ticket sales coincided with the nationalisation of SABSA, the operator of Bolivia's three largest airports in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Local observers have interpreted the nationalisation as a return to stronger protectionism of the local aviation industry.