Venezuela must pay $3.7 billion to airlines: industry group

Monday, June 08, 2015

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FLORIDA, United States (AFP) – Venezuela must take steps to resolve an impasse that has held up $3.7 billion dollars in payments to international airlines, the head of a major airline industry group said Monday.

"This is unacceptable," said Tony Tyler, director general of the International Air Transport Association, adding that the money was generated from ticket sales and Venezuela is violating international treaties by withholding it.

In Venezuela, airlines are required to sell tickets in bolivars (VEF) under an arrangement in which the government later converts the local currency to dollars.

However, the exchange rate varies wildly, and "airlines are forced to sell tickets using an exchange rate of 12 VEF to the US dollar (USD) and make payments such as those for airport use at a floating rate that currently stands at 199 VEF per USD," the IATA said in a statement.

The IATA urged Venezuela to establish a "single and fair bolivar (VEF) exchange rate for the sale of tickets and for the payment of airline fees and charges."

The association also asked Venezuela to establish a realistic payment schedule to the airlines and consult with industry "before imposing any new taxes or regulations that affect airlines.

Some airlines have scaled back operations in Venezuela due to the government's policies, and airline passengers have suffered from lack of flights.

The IATA said no payments have been made to the airlines since October, running up a $3.7 billion backlog.

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