State-controlled Aeropostal clawing back network

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Venezuelan carrier Aeropostal is trying slowly to recover the domestic network it mostly abandoned when the Government intervened in the carrier last November.

Aeropostal has put a fourth McDonnell Douglas DC-9 into service, part of a comeback after a winter of near inactivity and the axing of 590 personnel.

"We have re-activated a grounded DC-9 aircraft...bringing our fleet to four," explains Aeropostal president Coronel Douglas Vazquez, adding that a fifth aircraft of the same type is "under preparation".

He says that, in addition to the network of trunk routes serving Caracas with Margarita Island, Maracaibo, Baquisimeto, Puerto Ordaz and Valencia, the airline is planning to open new routes to the local cities of Maturin and Barcelona.

"We are coming back slowly, but we don't want to grow beyond our possibilities," he says, indicating that Aeropostal achieve good on-time performance rather than undermine operational reliability.

"Our next milestone will be the opening of our first international route of this new age in the life of Aeropostal, adding Port of Spain within the next weeks," he says.

Despite operating under the Government, Aeropostal has not yet been formally nationalised. While Vazquez maintains that the company operates under "social control", another company source explains that no formal nationalisation procedure will be executed until the trial against its former owners - Abdala, Basel and Alex Makled - determines their actual legal responsibility.

The trio are facing trial on charges related to drug trafficking, and the source says that seizure of their assets could only become effective if they are convicted.

"Until then Aeropostal will continue operating in its current regime," he says.

This uncertainty over the nationalisation is also likely to hinder any potential merger with Venezuela's Conviasa.