RIO DE JANEIRO (Kyodo) Japan and Brazil are engaged in a diplomatic dispute over the flights of Varig Airlines.
The Brazilian airline intends to alter the stop of its Japan-bound flights from Los Angeles to a city in Europe, preferably Zurich.
Varig says it has been running losses since last year, when the U.S. began demanding a transit visa for all Brazilians passengers who fly to Japan.
The stop in Zurich would represent for Brazilians an alternative for the current expense of $100 to get the transit visa to the U.S.
The Japanese government reportedly fears the unwilling competition would hurt the interests of Japan Airlines on the Tokyo-Zurich-Tokyo route.
“They have suggested we should choose Geneva, but this stop is not economically interesting,” Varig said.
Varig’s strategy is to use the so-called fifth “air transportation freedom” to fly passengers from Zurich to Tokyo.
“Japan’s refusal to authorize Varig to change the route has caused turbulence over the relations between Brasilia and Tokyo,” the local business daily Valor said.
Brazilians also complain that they have to wait more than two weeks to get a visa at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in Brazil. The fact that they have to go to the nearest consulate in person also forces many to have extra expenses with transportation and hotel accommodations.
“Brazilians have to do this just to get off the plane in Los Angeles and stretch their legs for one hour while the plane is being refueled,” the daily said.
Varig has seen its Japan-bound flights shrink from seven to four a week since Washington adopted the new visa policy for security reasons.
Many passengers have turned to other airlines that fly to Japan with a route in Europe. Japanese and Brazilian government officials met at the Study Commission on International Air Navigation in Rio de Janeiro for three days through Friday to debate the issue, but failed to reach an agreement.