Venezuela Suspends Ban on U.S. Airlines

Venezuela has pushed back until the end of April a ban to block U.S. airlines from flying here in retaliation for U.S. safety restrictions against its carriers.

A ban prohibiting nearly all flights by American carriers to the country was set to take effect Thursday.

The Ministry of Infrastructure said in a statement late Wednesday that April 25 was the new deadline by which the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration must drop restrictions against Venezuelan carriers or face the retaliatory measure.

That would give time for FAA officials in Caracas this week time to finish their safety audit of the country and upgrade Venezuela's safety ranking, it said.

"It has been decided to grant an extension until April 25, 2006 in anticipation of formally receiving before that date the results of the visit by the FAA," it said.

Caracas is protesting the FAA's category 2 safety ranking of Venezuela, imposed in 1995, which has prohibited Venezuelan airlines from flying their own planes to the United States or from launching new services such as expansions or changes in routes.

Venezuela has threatened that if the FAA fails to grant it category 1 status, it will prohibit all flights by Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc. and Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc., and restrict flights by AMR Corp.'s American Airlines of Fort Worth, Texas.

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