CARACAS, Venezuela–President Nicolas Maduro warned airlines not to limit flights in and out of Venezuela, days after Avianca reported was reducing flights to Caracas amid industry complaints of billions of dollars in unpaid debts. “Airlines have no excuse to reduce their flights to Venezuela”, Maduro said during a press conference. “If airlines reduce flights, I will take severe measures.” Airlines have struggled to obtain dollars in exchange for the Bolivar currency as a result of long-running delays in Venezuela’s 11-year-old currency control system. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) this week said that airlines are owed USD $3.7 billion and that some are considering halting service to Venezuela. “If an airline leaves the country, it’s not coming back while we are in government”, Maduro said, casting the airlines’ complaints as part of a wider economic war against his socialist government by political foes and businesses. Maduro also said, however, that his government would pay debts to the airline industry. Avianca Holdings, operator of Colombia’s biggest airline, on Thursday told travel agents it will cut flights between the countries’ capitals to one day from three as of March 20th. Avianca will suspend flights between Caracas and San Jose, Costa Rica, as part of an effort “to match supply to market needs” and reduce the number of seats available between Caracas and Lima. The company’s Chief Executive said that currency controls hade made it difficul to bring revenue worrth about USD$300 million out of Venezuela. German airline Lufthansa said this month its 2013 financial results took a double-digit million euro hit from payment issues in Venezuela. Maduro said that various airlines around the world were ready to step in and cover any unfilled routes. “They’re asking permission to cover flights to Colombia, Panama, Central and South America”, he said without giving more details. Venezuelan state-run air carrier CONVIASA is expected to take over several routes like the Caracas-San Jose run.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — JetBlue Airways (Nasdaq: JBLU) announced new daily nonstop service between Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) and Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) in Lima, subject to receipt of government operating authority. The flight will start on November 21st, 2013. Lima will be JetBlue’s 81st BlueCity and its fourth destination in South America. Sale fares for U.S.-originating flights to Lima are available today and until May 3rd, 2013, at www.jetblue.com/new for as low as $139 one-way from Fort Lauderdale and $199 one-way from the New York Metros and Boston, for travel between November 21st and December 19th, 2013. “JetBlue’s low fares and award-winning service have worked very well between Florida and Latin America,” said Scott Laurence, vice president of network planning for JetBlue Airways. “With Lima, our first destination in Peru and the southernmost destination in the network, we are confident in our penetration of South America. When you look at Lima’s wonderful offerings, including its rich culture, cuisine and great people, we believe both Florida and Lima residents will benefit greatly from the flight, whether visiting friends and relatives, vacationing or on business.”