Airline Alitalia halts Venezuela flights from June through October

CARACAS Thu May 15, 2014 7:57pm EDT

An Alitalia plane is parked on the tarmac at Fiumicino international airport in Rome December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

An Alitalia plane is parked on the tarmac at Fiumicino international airport in Rome December 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Max Rossi

CARACAS (Reuters) - Italian airline Alitalia on Thursday confirmed that it is suspending service to Venezuela between the start of June and the end of October because of growing disputes over delays in repatriating revenue under the country's currency controls.

Venezuela owes airlines some $4 billion, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), because the airlines are required to sell tickets in the local bolivar currency but the government has not granted them approval to repatriate that revenue.

Alitalia did not explain the reasons for suspending service.

It had been running five flights per week between Caracas and Rome until May, when it reduced service to only two.

President Nicolas Maduro has promised that airlines will be able to repatriate revenue, but has also threatened to kick out airlines that suspend service.

Air Canada (ACb.TO) halted its operations in March, citing security concerns related to street protests, and Venezuela immediately cut ties to the airline.

Major airlines flying to Venezuela include American Airlines (AAL.O), Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), Delta (DAL.N), Avianca AVT_p.CN and Copa (CPA.N).

(Reporting by Diego Ore; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Jan Paschal)

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