July 27, 2017 / 1:59 PM / a year ago

Colombia's Avianca to suspend Venezuela flights amid security, other limits

BOGOTA, July 27 (Reuters) - Colombian airline Avianca Holdings SA said on Thursday it will suspend flights to and from Venezuela immediately, instead of on a previously announced date of Aug. 16, due to operational and security difficulties.

The latest commercial carrier to pull out of the crisis-hit socialist country said in a statement it was obliged to cancel the flights because of “operational and security limitations registered during the last few hours.”

Avianca had earlier said on Wednesday it would cancel its Bogota-Caracas-Bogota and Lima-Caracas-Lima routes, a total of three daily flights, beginning Aug. 16.

Customers will be rebooked on other airlines still flying the route or be reimbursed in full, the company said.

The cancellation of flights to the country has further isolated Venezuelans amid widespread unrest and protests. Companies have cited everything from payment disputes to safety concerns for suspending service.

United canceled its Venezuelan flights in June. Lufthansa and Air Canada have also pulled out.

Many airlines have been in protracted disputes with the government over billions of dollars of ticket sales made in the beleaguered local currency. They say President Nicolas Maduro’s administration has failed to reimburse them amid strict currency controls.

The International Air Transport Association said last month Venezuela owes airlines more than $3.8 billion. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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