Brazil’s rapid growth slows; Azul makes instant impression in domestic market

Image: Azul Brazil

In just five years passenger throughput at Brazil’s commercial airports has grown by almost 60% from just over 70 million passengers to over 110 million. This has been achieved despite the collapse of the national flag-carrier Varig (in July 2006) and the consequences of fatal accidents involving both of the country’s leading airlines. Growth has come primarily in the dominant domestic sector where GOL and TAM have helped stimulate demand by over 60%. International growth has been slower but still a respectable 34%.

Chart: Brazilian airports traffic 2003-2008
Source: Infraero

Sao Paulo’s two airports share 30% of traffic

Image: TAM at Sao Paulo
Brazil’s largest airline TAM at Sao Paulo’s Congonhas airport. TAM has increased its market share of international traffic among Brazilian airlines to over 85% – in March its international capacity was up 26%. Apparently defying gravity it has just reported a net income of R$55 million ($25m) for the first quarter of 2009, a remarkable 26% growth compared to Q1 2008.

Sao Paulo’s two airports at Guarulhos and Congonhas handled 34 million passengers between them in 2008, virtually unchanged from the year before, and accounted for 30% of the country’s airport passengers.

Chart: Top 15 Brazilian airports 2008
Source: Infraero

Among the top 15 only Congonhas, Fortaleza, Manaus and the airport serving the capital in Brasilia reported a decline in traffic in 2008.

TAM & GOL dominate domestic market; Azul growing fast

During 2008 TAM and GOL/Varig continued to share over 90% of domestic demand as measured by RPKs. Webjet, the third largest domestic carrier, is just one-tenth the size of second ranked TAM based on RPKs.

Chart: Brazilian domestic market
Source: ANAC
Image: GOL at Rio
GOL at Rio: Between Sao Paulo Congonhas and Rio’s Santos Dumont airport GOL and TAM offer almost 200 weekly departures in each direction. On the second busiest route between Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos and Rio’s Galeao the two share a further 100 weekly departures!

However, in March 2009 TAM and GOL/Varig’s market share finally fell below 90% as Azul, the latest airline project from serial entrepreneur David Neeleman, grabbed a 2.2% share of the market. Not bad for an airline that only started operating in mid-December. In the first three months of 2009 the airline’s load factor has grown from 59% to 64% to 67% as the domestic market as a whole went from 71% to 61% and finally 59%. In both February and March domestic load factors were down five percentage points compared with 2008.

On the top domestic route between Congonhas and Rio’s Santos Dumont airport both GOL and TAM offer almost 200 weekly departures in each direction. On the country’s second busiest route between Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos and Rio’s Galeao airport these two carriers share around 100 weekly departures between them.

Image: Azul, the latest airline project from JetBlue’s David Neeleman
And there he is: Azul, the latest airline project from JetBlue’s David Neeleman, has grabbed a 2.2% share of the market since launch in mid-December. Load factors were 67% by March.

Azul is based at Viracopos/Campinas airport around 100 kilometres from Sao Paulo. Unusually the airport has two three-letter codes. Azul uses VCP (for Viracopos) which indicates that the airport is part of the Sao Paulo airport system. CPQ is used by other airlines to indicate that the airport serves Campinas.

TAM still growing internationally

On international routes demand on Brazilian airlines is down 10% in the first quarter as a result of capacity reductions by Gol/Varig. TAM has now increased its market share of international traffic among Brazilian airlines to over 85% and in March its international capacity was up 26%. However load factors fell from 76% to 66% resulting in demand (RPKs) being up just under 10%.

The biggest international country markets are the USA and Argentina. Based on current scheduled capacity the leading carriers between Brazil and the US are American, TAM, Delta and United. On routes to Argentina Gol/Varig is the market leader followed by TAM and Aerolineas Argentinas.

The leading European country markets this summer are Portugal, France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK. Of the MEB3 airlines only Emirates currently serves Brazil with daily flights from Dubai to Sao Paulo Guarulhos.


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