Caracas, Venezuela, March 31, 2006—Yesterday, Venezuela’s Infrastructure Ministry announced that the country’s aviation authority, the INAC would postpone a partial US airline ban, set to have begun yesterday, until April 25.
The threatened airline ban was the result of a 1995 US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety rating given to Venezuela, which limited flights made by Venezuelan airlines into the US, and required that they rent their aircraft from countries with a higher rating. Venezuela argued that in the 10 years since the low rating was given, the country’s air laws and airline safety standards have been brought up to international standards, but it had not been reassessed by the FAA. In 2004, the International Civil Aviation Organization said that Venezuela fulfilled 89 percent of the international norms and requirements to operate commercially in foreign markets, including the United States.
After the February 24 announcement that Venezuela threatened to drastically cut back on the number of flights per day of US airlines allowed to fly to Caracas, Washington threatened to retaliate by cutting off all Venezuelan flights to the US. Later the FAA set up meetings in Caracas to reassess the country’s airline industry. Yesterday, FAA representative Michael Daniel told the AP, “We’re having a very good audit. We’re getting toward the last stages of our visit here.”
Last week, William Brownfield, the US ambassador to Caracas, had announced that the US and Venezuela had reached a solution which would temporarily put off the airline ban. Venezuelan authorities later responded that no such agreement had been made.
Later, the ambassador denied any political motivations for the ban, saying they were based purely on safety concerns.
According to the AP, the FAA isn’t expected to announce its decision regarding Venezuela’s safety status until after it returns Washington, which could be soon.
Venezuelan airlines, which had been supportive of the government’s decision to partially ban US flights, reacted positively to the news to the extension given to the US. “[The decision] is constructive from every point of view and opens a path for a definitive solution that will benefit the aerocommerical relations between Venezuela and the United Staes, with special emphasis on operational security,” the Venezuelan Association of Airlines told Venezuelan daily El Universal.
US airlines also announced that they were pleased with the decision.