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Venezuelan airport adds clean air fee, enraging travellers

Categories: Community, Science & Technology, World

A Venezuelan airport is charging travellers for the cost of breathing clean air.

Starting in July, visitors to the International Airport of Maiquetia 'Simon Bolivar' just north of Caracas, Venezuela, will have to pay 127 bolivars in tax, or about $17 Cdn., to cover the cost of the airport's new ozonation system.

The system uses ozone to purify the airport's air conditioning system, according to a statement from Venezuela's ministry responsible for water and air transportation. The government claims it is the first airport in South America and the Caribbean to have this type of technology.

But that hasn't been enough to get those who must pay the tax on board.

The new tax is symptomatic of larger issues between travellers, airlines and Venezuela, where, according to the International Air Transport Association, the government is blocking the repatriation of nearly $4 billion US in airline funds to 24 carriers. The funds are from sales of airline tickets in Venezuela and are being held in contravention of international treaties. 

On Tuesday, Delta Air Lines announced it would reduce its service to Venezuela by 85 per cent in response to the dispute. Starting August 1, Delta will reduce its flights from once daily to once weekly, according to ABC News.  

American Airlines, too, has struggled with Venezuela. As of March 31, 2014, approximately $750 million of its unrestricted cash value was tied up in bolivars, according to its latest quarterly report. It announced on June 17 that it would cut service to Venezuela by 80 per cent as a result, AP reported.

Air Canada suspended its flights to Venezuela in March, saying months-long protests against the Venezuelan government had "exacerbated the challenges of doing business" there. 

"Among other things, [the situation] has resulted in onerous currency restrictions imposed on all airlines preventing them from recovering their funds from Venezuela," Air Canada said in a statement.

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