| WASHINGTON, June 3
WASHINGTON, June 3 United Airlines will
end its daily flight service to
Venezuela in July, further isolating the crisis-hit South
American country from international travel after the exit of
many major airlines in recent years.
Many airlines have left after a protracted dispute over
billions of dollars they say the government owes them. They say
President Nicolas Maduro's administration has failed to
reimburse companies in hard currency for ticket sales in local
currency, as per strict currency controls in the socialist
United, which flies daily between Caracas and Houston's
George Bush Intercontinental Airport, confirmed to Reuters that
it was halting that route, though said it was not because of any
While the flight is popular with Texas-based oil executives
and Venezuelans living in the United States, few tourists travel
to the crisis-stricken country and flights often have low
"In every market we serve, we continually review demand for
service and because our Houston-Caracas service is not meeting
our financial expectations we have decided to suspend it,
effective July 1," United spokesman Charles Hobart said in an
email to Reuters.
In addition to currency disputes and low occupancy on
flights to Venezuela, airlines also fret about security for
their crews on the ground.
Unrest prompted by food shortages has resulted in the deaths
of at least 64 people since April. On Saturday, a few hundred
activists staged a protest in western Caracas.
United in April added a one-hour stop in the Caribbean
island of Aruba to its Houston-to-Caracas leg, a move analysts
said was to ensure crews would not have to stay overnight in
Airlines from Lufthansa to Air Canada have
pulled out of Venezuela in recent years, citing everything from
the payment dispute to safety concerns.
The largest U.S. carrier in the country, American Airlines
, slashed 80 percent of flights in 2014. Two years later,
the Fort Worth-based company wrote off $592 million it said was
stuck in Venezuela due to the government's failure to exchange
it for hard currency.
The International Air Transport Association said last year
that $3.78 billion was owed to international airlines by
A handful of airlines including Copa and Avianca
- part of the Star Alliance network alongside United
- as well as Air France and Iberia, continue to
operate in the OPEC nation.
(Reporting by Girish Gupta; Editing by Alexandra Ulmer and