Brazil could cut TAM flights if more delays
* Defense minister issues warning after holiday chaos
* Entire industry struggling to cope with surging demand
SAO PAULO Jan 8 (Reuters) - Brazil's civil aviation regulator could reduce the number of flights operated by airline TAM TAMM4.SA after a string of canceled and delayed flights, according to state news agency Agencia Brasil.
Many passengers were stranded during the busy holiday period when Brazil's biggest airline was forced to reschedule most national flights, prompting a temporary suspension of domestic ticket sales on Nov. 29. For details, see [ID:nN29202791]
TAM blamed the delays partly on heavy rains in some of Brazil's largest cities but also on capacity strains.
Defense Minister Nelson Jobim attributed the cancellations and delays partly to a lack of "planning, competence, and management," reported Agencia Brasil late on Friday.
"If the delays continue, the possibility of reducing the number of flights should be examined," Jobim was quoted as saying.
But analysts also see TAM's difficulties as typical of those of the whole industry, which is struggling to cope with surging demand from a growing middle class.
Rival Gol Linhas Aereas (GOLL4.SA)(GOL.N) was the target of regulator Anac's scrutiny last August after the delay and cancellation of more than 300 flights during the winter holiday season. (Reporting by Samantha Pearson in Sao Paulo; Editing by Bill Trott)
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