TSA Questions Safety of Venezuelan Airports

 - May 28, 2012, 4:35 PM

According to a note on the U.S. State Department's website, "Since 2005, the Venezuela government has not permitted the U.S. Transportation Security Agency (TSA) to assess the safety and security standards of Venezuelan airports that provide direct service to the United States, as required by the U.S. Congress. In September 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began to post public notices at U.S. airports to notify passengers of this issue."

However, a statement released by the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington last week, said its country's airports are safe. The statement also said U.S. representatives from United, Delta, American and FedEx, left a recent meeting in Caracas with the same understanding. Francisco Paz Fleitas, Venezuela's president of the National Institute for Civil Aviation, stressed "the importance of holding such meetings . . . to discuss [and address] the distorted and erroneous perceptions caused by the signs placed in U.S. airports regarding the supposed lack of safety of Venezuelan airports." 

A U.S. State Department spokesman told AIN that State Department officials were attempting to contact James Derham, the ChargĂ© d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, to confirm the details. The spokesman expressed surprise that the Venezuelan government had issued a media alert related to airports because "no one recorded the precise contents of that meeting." 

A Delta spokesman confirmed that two airline representatives did attend a meeting in Caracas last week and told AIN, "Delta respects the requirements from TSA and will follow them. Delta considers the safety of the airports we serve."

Despite the State Department warnings issued in 2005, Delta said it has "served the Venezuelan market continuously for the past 14 years." An American Airlines spokesman said, "Venezuela was our first South American destination almost 25 years ago [and] American would not operate flights into Venezuela, if we deemed the airports we serve to present unacceptable safety conditions." The State Department did not contact AIN again before press time with updates explaining the mixed messages.