Brazil to Audit Tam in Wake of Holiday Flight Delays

Brazil's aviation authority said it will audit Tam Linhas Aereas SA, the country's No. 1 carrier, to determine the cause of long delays and overbooked flights that snarled holiday air travel across Latin America's biggest country.

The National Agency of Civil Aviation, or ANAC, said in a statement Monday that it will begin the audit on Tuesday and also monitor ticket sales by all airlines for the New Year's holiday to prevent overbooking

ANAC said operations at Brazil's major airports were normal Christmas Day, despite more than 140 cancellations it blamed on a "readjustment of departure times and the reorganization of the country's air route network."

The statement elaborate on the audit or the new cancellations, and officials were not immediately available to comment on Monday.

Brazil's latest air travel woes started Dec. 19 when Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport - the country's busiest - shut down due to bad weather.

The next day Tam grounded six planes because of maintenance problems, causing a nationwide "snowball" effect of cancelations and flight delays as long as 24 hours. Some angry passengers invaded runways to demand they be put on planes.

On Friday, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called in the Brazilian air force to help transport airline passengers on an emergency basis, and Tam was ordered to halt ticket sales until the chaos was controlled.

In a statement on Monday, Tam said that while all its operations had been normalized by noon, it was not selling any tickets.

Brazil's airports have been plagued by problems since a midair collision between a Gol airlines Boeing 737 and an Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet killed 154 passengers on Sep. 29 in the country's worst air disaster.

After the crash, air traffic controllers began following regulations to the letter in a "work-to-rule" protest to demand better pay and working conditions.

On Dec. 5, authorities suspended takeoffs from three major airports for several hours after an air control system failed, prompting an unprecedented wave of flight cancellations.

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