EU bans Venezuelan carrier Conviasa over safety

Tue Apr 3, 2012 5:51pm EDT

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* State airline had fatal crashes in 2008 and 2010

* Venezuela slams decision, may take reciprocal steps

By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS, April 3 (Reuters) - The European Union banned Venezuelan state airline Conviasa on Tuesday from flying in the 27-nation bloc over safety concerns in a move that Venezuela's government said was disproportionate.

The European Commission said in a statement that Conviasa was added to its latest list of carriers banned from operating in member states "due to numerous safety concerns arising from accidents and the results of ramp checks at EU airports."

Siim Kallas, a senior EC official, said the Commission stood ready to help countries overcome any safety difficulties with their airlines as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

"In the meantime, safety comes first. We cannot afford any compromise in this area," Kallas said in a statement.

Conviasa had been operating a twice-weekly service between Caracas and Madrid. Most of its flights are to domestic destinations and cities within South America and the Caribbean.

In September 2010, the airline suspended its flights for a two-week revision of safety standards following a turboprop crash that killed 17 people and two emergency landings the same week.

In 2008, a Conviasa Boeing 737 crashed in mountains in Ecuador, killing the three crew members on board. It was not carrying passengers.

Last year, Venezuela's government revamped its Transport Ministry to address problems in the sector, including air accidents.

Caracas said on Tuesday the EC ruling was unfair and that it might take reciprocal measures.

"The decision ... is totally disproportionate and runs counter to the considerations made by the International Civil Aviation Organization, regarding the conditions for the safe operations of Venezuela's civil aviation," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The government ... is evaluating what reciprocal and proportionate steps it will take to safeguard the prestige the state airline holds before the Venezuelan people and the international community." (Editing by Sandra Maler)

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