| CARACAS, June 17
CARACAS, June 17 American Airlines said
on Tuesday it will cut almost 80 percent of its weekly flights
to Venezuela in response to the government's refusal to
repatriate $750 million in revenue trapped by exchange controls.
As of July 2, American will run 10 weekly flights with
service to Miami only. Its current schedule includes 48 weekly
flights to San Juan, Dallas/Forth Worth and New York.
The International Airline Transport Association (IATA) says
its member airlines have $4 billion in ticket revenue that they
have been unable to repatriate due to delays in the South
American nation's currency control mechanism.
"Since we are owed a substantial outstanding amount ($750
million through March 2014) and have been unable to reach
resolution on the debt, we will significantly reduce our flights
to the country," an airline official wrote in an email.
The company says it has worked in Venezuela for more than 25
years, and the country was the airline's first destination in
President Nicolas Maduro has threatened to kick out airlines
that halt flights or restrict service. He recently attributed
the problem to flights being rerouted to Brazil for the World
Cup soccer championships.
Venezuela's 11-year-old currency control system requires
that airlines bill tickets in the bolivar currency. But it has
provided only limited approval to repatriate those funds back
Air Canada recently cut flights to Venezuela
because of security concerns, while Alitalia suspended services
due to delays in repatriating revenue.
The government last month reached a deal with six small
airlines that agreed to reduced payment, and the economy
vice-president said another $486 million would be released to
the airline industry.
Despite some advances, the airlines remain frustrated at the
situation, an IATA spokesman said.
Airlines for years priced tickets at the strongest official
exchange rate, which has been devalued over the last 18 months.
Starting in July, the government will allow airlines to
repatriate revenue at a rate of around 50 bolivars per dollar,
from roughly 11 bolivars currently.
(Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Dan Grebler)