Venezuela has prohibited Continental Airlines and Delta Air Lines from flying into this South American nation and is restricting American Airlines, Francisco Plaz, the president of the National Aviation Institute, said.
Speaking late Thursday, Plaz said that the measure was taken because the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, had established a similar ban on commercial jets registered in Venezuela 10 years ago due to safety violations.
The ban would take effect on March 1, Plaz told the local Globovision television channel.
Delta currently serves a daily route from Simon Bolivar international Airport to Atlanta while Continental has daily flights to Houston and weekly flights to New York. American Airlines services daily routes to Puerto Rico and Miami.
A spokeswoman for the Venezuelan Association of Airlines, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to be quoted by name, told The Associated Press the three U.S.-based airlines received notification of the ban on Thursday and would meet soon with Venezuelan aviation officials to discuss the measure.
In 1996, the FAA ruled that Venezuela must tighten its airline safety procedures and downgraded its civil aviation authority to Category II, restricting flights because Venezuela allegedly didn't meet international safety standards.
Venezuelan officials say they have improved safety standards since then.
"We have exhausted all avenues with the U.S. aeronautical authority," Venezuela's National Aviation Institute said in a statement issued Thursday. "We have been forced to reduce the frequency of flights of U.S. airline companies from the U.S."
U.S. aviation authorities have "failed to give Venezuelan airlines the rights they deserve under bilateral agreements," the statement added.
Delta spokesman John Kennedy said the three U.S. airlines were discussing the ban with U.S. authorities.
"We're very disappointed by this unilateral action by the Venezuelan government and we are working closely with the U.S. Departments of State and Transportation as well as our peer carriers who received similar notice to resolve the issue as quickly as possible," Kennedy said.