Airline group seeks talks with Venezuela on $3.8 bln debt
By Anthony Esposito
SANTIAGO, March 26 (Reuters) - The group that represents the international airline industry said on Wednesday that top Venezuelan government officials have not responded to its requests for talks on $3.8 billion in unpaid debt resulting from the country's currency controls.
Venezuela requires airlines to bill tickets sold to the country's residents in local bolivar currency but has not approved requests to repatriate the resulting revenue, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.
"We as IATA haven't succeeded in engaging the senior levels of government in any discussions," IATA Chief Executive Tony Tyler said during the FIDAE airshow in Santiago. "We'd be very keen to do that. At any time, I would go for a meeting with the president or the senior ministers to find a solution to the problem."
Tyler said that within the past year, 11 airlines that have been flying to Venezuela have reduced their operations by between 15 and 78 percent.
Individual airlines have held meetings with government officials, but without results, he said. Major airlines flying to Venezuela include American Airlines, Lufthansa , Delta, Avianca and Copa.
Air Canada suspended its operations this month, citing security concerns related to street protests, and Venezuela immediately cut ties to the airline.
"I need hardly remind anyone here that this is not the government's money, it is money the airlines earned by providing air transportation to the citizens of Venezuela," Tyler said.
The currency control system, created in 2003 by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, requires companies to seek approval from a state currency board to purchase hard currency. Continuación...