Venezuela limits US airlines' access

Venezuelan aviation authorities have announced a reduction in the number of flights by US airlines serving the country starting on 1 March, citing a lack of equal access for its carriers in the United States.

    The decisiion will affect three US airlines

    The decision was the latest turbulence between oil-rich Venezuela and the United States, its biggest oil client.

    Both countries have been at loggerheads since Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, was elected in 1998 and struck up close relations with Cuba.
    Venezuela's National Civil Aviation Institute (INAC) said in a statement that it "saw a vital need to take this decision to reduce, as of 1 March 2006, US companies' air operations between the United States and Venezuela".
    The statement, dated 22 February and published on INAC's website, did not specify which airlines would be subject to the new rules, but Venezuelan media reported on Friday that it would affect American Airlines, Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
    The institute said the decision was based on "the principles of fairness, reciprocity and fair opportunity that must exist between the two countries", as prescribed by an accord between the United States and Venezuela. 

    INAC directors were expected to meet on Friday with representatives of the airlines affected by the measure.
    An American Airlines spokesman in the United States mentioned the upcoming meeting but offered no further comments.

    Delta and Continental airlines also refused to comment on Venezuela's decision.
    INAC said that it had "exhausted every possible conciliatory options with US aviation authorities" in an attempt to "restore the rights accorded to Venezuelan airlines by a bilateral accord".
    The two Venezuelan airlines that offer international service, Santa Barbara and Aeropostal, have flights to Miami.



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