Venezuela to limit US carrier access over safety rating spat

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An ongoing war of words between the US and Venezuelan Governments has encroached upon civil aviation with a warning from the South American nation that US rights will be reduced if its FAA category 2 safety rating is not upgraded.

Under the new guidelines, from March 1 Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines services into flights into Caracas will be banned, while American Airlines will lose up to four of its six daily flights to the capital city, says a message on Venezuela’s national institute of civil aviation (INAC) web site.

The initial reaction is muted, with US DOT and State Department officials following Continental’s lead by withholding comment. American will only say it is expecting to meet with Venezuelan officials today, while a “disappointed” Delta says it is working with State and Transportation officials to resolve the issue.

American currently operates 10 daily flights between the two countries, of which six are nonstops to Caracas. According ATI’s sister product ACAS, Continental currently operates two separate nonstops to the Venezuelan capital (a four-weekly service from Houston hub and a twice weekly from its New York Newark hub), while Delta operates a daily from Atlanta to Caracas.

A US Government source says Hugo Chavez’s Government is attempting to change the country’s category 2 safety rating, which for 10 years has restricted Venezuelan carrier operations into the USA.

Although this is not explicitly mentioned in any official comment, an INAC statement notes that the FAA’s category 2 rating impinges on Venezuela’s state rights and is counter to an ICAO safety audit of the country’s aviation system which confirms “that we have the capacity and the conditions required by the international standards in the matter”.

Chilean carrier Lan and Venezuela’s Aeropostal and Santa Barbara Airlines also operate services between Caracas and Miami.