Neeleman launches Azul from Campinas base near Sao Paulo; Brazil’s TAM and Gol will be watching closely

Image: Azul Staff
Embraer E-Jets are of course made in Brazil – you really wouldn’t want to use anything else.
Image: Azul CEO
Air Azul (USA) had some words to say to anna about the Brazil
launch: “While I would love to say we are flying the EMB 170-190 family, we wish David Neeleman well in the new Azul. We were named about 2 years before the Brazilian public agreed this was a great name for their airline too!”

Brazilian-born David Neeleman is probably best known as the driving force behind New York based jetBlue but prior to that he had already helped launch Morris Air (in the US) and WestJet (in Canada). Morris Air was taken over by Southwest and so Neeleman also worked there for a while. When he left Southwest he was barred from starting any further new airlines in the US for a period of five years which gave him time to pop over the border and help get WestJet flying.

His latest airline project is Azul, a Brazilian start-up which began operations this week with two Embraer E-Jets from Viracopos/Campinas (VCP) international airport located around 85 kilometres from Sao Paulo’s two main airports at Congonhas and Guarulhos and around 100 kilometres from downtown Sao Paulo. In 2007 VCP handled just over one million passengers and was Brazil’s second busiest airport for cargo.

Two aircraft now, six by early February

When operations began on Monday 15 December the airline had just two aircraft and was operating twice-daily to Porto Alegre (POA) and Salvador de Bahia (SSA). In mid-January routes to Curitiba (CWB) and Vitoria (VIX) will be added and by early February all routes will be served either four or five times daily while the fleet will have grown to six aircraft. The table below shows how daily frequencies are ramped up with the addition of further aircraft.

15 Dec 08 21 Dec 08 26 Dec 08 14 Jan 09 4 Feb 09
Porto Alegre 2 4 5 5 5
Salvador de Bahia 2 3 5 5 5
Curitiba       2 4
Vitoria       2 4
Total daily rotations 4 7 10 14 18
Number of aircraft 2 3 4 5 6
Source: Derived from Azul website data

The airline is starting with a mix of E190s and E195s with a couple of the E190s on loan from jetBlue. Orders for more than 30 additional E-Jets (mostly E195s) have been placed with options for 20 more. These will be delivered at the rate of one per month until the end of 2011 when the airline hopes to be operating 36 aircraft. With plans to increase the number of destinations served from five to 25 during 2009 anna.aero will be tracking developments carefully.

Domestic traffic down 10% in October

The latest figures from Infraero reveal that domestic traffic at Brazil’s airports was down 10.1% in October to 7.81 million passengers. In 2006 domestic traffic in Brazil was up 7.8% which accelerated to 8.8% growth in 2007. Year-to-date domestic traffic growth is now just 2.7%. According to ANAC statistics TAM and Gol (including Varig) have around a 93% share of the domestic market with Oceanair, Trip and Webjet the only other carriers with more than a 1% share of the market (in terms of RPKs).


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