The International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the Venezuelan government to honor the commitment it made in March to permit airlines to repatriate in full -- and at fair exchange rates -- airline funds being blocked in the country.
While the government has permitted the repatriation of $424 million shared among a number of airlines, continuing sales in the country have seen the total amount owed grow to $4.1 billion.
IATA said airlines can no longer afford the risk of not being paid when providing services to Venezuela. International capacity to and from Venezuela is down 49% from peak service levels offered last year and 36% lower year on year.
The blocked monies are from ticket sales in Venezuela and are being held by the government in breach of international treaties. Considering that the global air transport industry is expected to post a collective $18 billion profit this year, the outstanding $4.1 billion is significant, IATA said.
“Airlines cannot offer service when there is no certainty of payment," Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and CEO, said. The Venezuelan government has made many promises to abide by its obligations. But $4.1 billion remains unpaid. Confidence in the market is falling sharply. Most carriers are limiting their risk with reduced capacity. Several have completely pulled out. Venezuela risks becoming disconnected from the global economy."
Tyler said that Venezuela, like all nations, reaps enormous benefits from air connectivity including economic growth and a link to the global economy. "Without robust air links to the world, there is little chance of a recovery,” said Tyler.
In a fourth letter to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro about the blocked funds, IATA called on the president to lead a high-level dialogue with IATA on behalf of the two dozen airlines whose money is at stake.
"The goal should be to clear the debts quickly in a way that is fair and acceptable to the airlines involved," the letter said. Tyler also requested a meeting with the President to scope out grounds for a potential agreement.
IATA is ready to contribute to a positive solution for all parties but cannot move forward without the engagement and cooperation of the government, according to Tyler.