Big airline LATAM suspends flights to Venezuela

AFP , Monday 30 May 2016

Latin America's biggest airline LATAM said Monday it will suspend its flights to crisis-hit Venezuela for an indefinite period, following a similar move by German carrier Lufthansa.

Chile-based LATAM Airlines group and its Peruvian and Brazilian subsidiaries decided to cut the flights "due to the complex macroeconomic situation that the region is currently going through," it said in a statement.

It said challenging economic conditions in Latin America were prompting changes to its domestic and international routes.

"In this context, the companies will suspend, temporarily and for an indefinite period, their operations in Simon Bolivar international airport in Caracas," the statement said.

Venezuela is in economic and political crisis, with a shortage of dollars making it difficult for businesses to operate.

LATAM said it is cutting all three of the major routes it currently operates to Caracas: from Sao Paulo in Brazil, Lima in Peru and Santiago in Chile.

The Sao Paulo flight has been suspended since May 28 while flights on the other two routes will stop by August 1, LATAM said.

Passengers who have booked flights will be reimbursed, LATAM said.

The company "will work to resume these operations as soon as possible, as soon as global conditions permit."

Lufthansa said on Sunday it would suspend flights to Venezuela on its route from Frankfurt starting June 17.

A spokesman told AFP it was not clear when service would resume.

"The reason for this is the difficult economic situation and the fact that is it is not possible to transfer foreign currency out of the country," the spokesman said.

Currency controls in Venezuela make it impossible for airlines to convert their earnings into dollars and send the money abroad.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is grappling with an economic crisis that has sparked calls for a referendum on removing him from office.

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