American Tries to Head Off Venezuelan Flight Restrictions

American Airlines met with representatives of the Venezuelan government Wednesday in an attempt to head off a crackdown on U.S. airline service to that nation.

According to Venezuelan officials, Peter Dolara, American's vice president for operations in the Caribbean, South America and Mexico, said the airline would support Venezuela's bid to expand its own service to U.S. cities. Flights operated by Venezuela's national carriers have been restricted since 1995, when the Federal Aviation Administration downgraded the nation's rating on safety and security concerns.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said last month that he would cancel almost all flights by U.S. carriers into his country unless the FAA upgraded its rating and allowed Venezuelan carriers to expand service.

All flights operated by Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines would be canceled. American would be forced to scrap flights from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport to Caracas but could continue to operate three daily flights from Miami.

Chavez had originally scheduled the cancellations for March 1 but later extended the date to March 30.

In a statement the Venezuelan government released Wednesday, Dolara said the FAA would be "pleasantly surprised" by improvements in the country's airlines and airports.

Martha Pantin, an American spokeswoman in Miami, said Dolara met with José Vincente Rangel, the Venezuelan vice president. But she said she was unaware of what Dolara said during the discussion.

Shares of AMR Corp., American's parent company (ticker: AMR), rose $1.19, or about 5 percent, to close at $25.96 Wednesday.

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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