The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has formally protested against the inclusion of state-owned flag carrier Conviasa in the European Union's list of unsafe airlines, alleging that banning the airline from European airspace contradicts International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rules.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it "firmly rejects" the decision of the EU and that it considers it "disproportionate" and "contrary to the regulations of ICAO about the adequacy of Venezuela's Air Safety Oversight Authorities".
It also warned of possible retaliatory measures, announcing the possibillity of "proportionate reciprocal measures to preserve [Venezuela's] fundamental interests and Conviasa's reputation".
According to a Conviasa spokesman the airline will continue to operate its flights to Madrid, using aircraft operated by privately-owned Caracas-based carrier SBA Airlines. SBA operates Boeing 767s on long haul routes. It recently dropped flights to Madrid but continues to operate to Spain with a flight from Caracas to Tenerife, in the Canary Islands.
In terms of Spanish carriers, the route is served by SkyTeam's Air Europa and Oneworld's Iberia, which both operate daily Airbus A330 and A340 flights to Caracas.
Conviasa, whose only EU route was a thrice weekly Airbus A340-200 flight between Caracas and Madrid, has had two accidents since its launch in 2004. This has cast significant doubts over the airline's operational and maintenance procedures. Conviasa has a fleet of ten aircraft currently.
In 2006 the US Federal Aviation Administration downgraded Venezuela's safety oversight authorities to International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) category II, which banned Venezuelan carriers from adding flights to the US. However, shortly after Venezuela threatened to ban all US carriers from operating to the South American country, the FAA upgraded Venezuela again to category I.