Lufthansa Signs Venezuela Maintenance Deal

July 8, 2005

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Lufthansa has signed a contract to provide maintenance for Venezuela's new state airline Conviasa, which plans to expand its fleet from two to 12 aircraft this year, Conviasa's vice president said.

Gerardo Cabanas, vice-president of the Venezuelan airline created at the end of 2004, said the agreement with the German company's Lufthansa Technik unit included technical advice and a supply of spare parts for emergencies.

Terms for the contract and length of the pact were not disclosed.

"This important agreement is going to permit us to reduce our unplanned maintenance time to a minimum," Cabanas said.

Lufthansa Technik is considering building a maintenance area in the headquarters of Conviasa at the Simon Bolivar airport outside the capital Caracas to make repairs on brakes, wheels, motors, and battery components.

Conviasa said last month it plans to purchase or lease 10 planes this year and President Hugo Chavez has provided USD$95 million for the fleet expansion.

The Venezuelan airline currently operates two planes, a De Havilland Canada Dash-7 and a Boeing 737-300.

The government is also considering purchasing another Dash-7, three Embraer RJ-145s, two Boeing 737-300s, two Boeing 737-500s and two Boeing 767-300ERs.

The company plans to eventually expand its fleet to 14 aircraft.

Conviasa was set up to restore a national state airline in Venezuela. The previous national flag carrier, Viasa, went bankrupt in 1997 after it was privatized and acquired by Spain's Iberia.

The new Venezuelan airline, which made its first flight in December, regularly travels to eight domestic destinations and also operates special flights to neighboring Grenada, Trinidad, and Colombia.

Conviasa plans to expand its routes to include more domestic and international destinations including cities in the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, and the Caribbean.

(Reuters)