July 28, 2014 / 2:02 PM / 4 years ago

IATA seeks meeting with Venezuela president over money owed to airlines

BERLIN, July 28 (Reuters) - A leading air transport industry body has called for a top-level meeting with the Venezuelan president to discuss ways to restore over $4 billion of airlines’ money that is trapped in the country due to its currency controls.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government requires airlines to sell tickets in the bolivar currency but has been slow to allow them to repatriate the earnings.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents around 240 global airlines, said on Monday that while Venezuela had permitted repatriation of $424 million shared among some airlines, $4.1 billion of airline ticket sales remained trapped in the country.

“The goal should be to clear the debts quickly in a way that is fair and acceptable to the airlines involved,” IATA Director General Tony Tyler said in a statement, calling for Maduro to lead talks with IATA on behalf of the carriers that have money trapped in the country.

Unable to repatriate ticket sales, many airlines, such as Delta, American Airlines and Lufthansa have slashed the number of flights they offer, while others such as Alitalia and Air Canada have halted flights altogether.

IATA said on Monday that international capacity on routes to Venezuela is down 36 percent year-on-year, or down 49 percent from 2013 peaks.

“Confidence in the market is falling sharply,” Tyler said. “Venezuela risks becoming disconnected from the global economy.” (Reporting by Victoria Bryan, editing by Louise Heavens)

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