ROUTES EUROPE: Air France Launches new European Link to Brasilia

Air France last week introduced a new three times weekly link between its Paris Charles de Gaulle hub and Brasília International Airport in Brazil’s capital city. The service commenced on March 31, 2014 and is operated by a Boeing 777-200 equipped with 309 seats.

Air France last week introduced a new three times weekly link between its Paris Charles de Gaulle hub and Brasília International Airport in Brazil’s capital city. The service commenced on March 31, 2014 and is operated by a Boeing 777-200 equipped with 309 seats, including 35 in Business Class, 24 in Premium Economy and 250 in Economy.

The new route marks only the sixth international route to be operated to the Brazilian capital and only the second from Europe – TAP Portugal has been serving the city from its Lisbon hub on an up to daily basis since July 2007. It also represents the first intercontinental network success since private consortium Inframérica took over the management of the airport in December 2012.

The addition of the new European connection is a key factor in Brasília International Airport’s growth strategy. Since the Inframérica Consortium took over the entire operation of the airport it has confirmed an investment of more than R$2.8 billion in modernising and expanding the airport, with major improvements already underway and due to be delivered before the start of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The objective is to create the most modern airport in Brazil, promote the region, and create the best connection gateway to serve the wider Brazilian market.

This offering has played its part in securing the new Air France service as the European carrier will offer onward flight options from Brasília to over twenty destinations in Brazil, thanks to a codeshare agreement with local low-cost carrier Gol, with which Air France has been developing a strategic partnership since 2009.

Following the route inauguration The HUB spoke to Daniel Ketchibachian, commercial director of Inframérica, to learn more about the ambitions of the airport. “With the highest GDP in Brazil (over 93 per cent higher than the second placed region- Sao Paulo), Brasília is the capital of opportunities for industries, companies and service providers wishing to make excellent investments and do great business. This is a key element of consideration for airlines as it ensures high yields on the network generated by businesses and officials,” he said.

The airport is adopting a hub strategy and believes the location of Brasília, in the centre of Brazil, is a better location for local passengers connecting to Europe and other Central & North America destinations with connecting journeys significantly reduced through Brasília versus alternative transit points further south in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

Being the geographic centre of the country, flights from Brasília to anywhere in Brazil take about two hours. ”Brasília offers reduced itineraries to international passengers accessing the northern, central and eastern regions of Brazil, reducing by as much as five hours travel time versus connection down south,” explained Ketchibachian. ”In addition to the geographic advantage, the terminal infrastructure and processes were enhanced at the airport to enable a minimum connect time of 45 mins and smooth operations for airlines benefiting from no congestion, and no slot constraints.”

According to MIDT data, an estimated 5.21 million bi-directional O&D passengers flew between Europe and Brazil in 2012. Approximately 161,000 began or ended their journeys in Brasília with around 24,000 flying between the Brazilian capital and Paris. These passengers, who will now be able to take advantage of the new direct connection, previously had to connect via other locations, the largest flows with TAP Portugal via Lisbon or TAM Airlines via Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

“The airport has enormous potential to fulfil its function of being the best hub in Brazil and all the investments we are making will make infrastructure more efficient and attractive to airlines. Brasília International Airport will have six international destinations served by direct services from Summer 2014: Paris (France), Miami and Atlanta (USA), Lisbon (Portugal), Panama City (Panama) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). We are also in very advanced talks with other airlines and we will have more news soon,” revealed Ketchibachian.

The domestic airlines scene has also seen some interesting changes improving the possibilities in Brasília. TAM has now been formally integrated into oneworld and is offering the largest domestic network in Brasília; Avianca Brazil the fastest growing airline in the country is based in Brasília and is moving fast to joining Star Alliance during 2014; and finally GOL is increasing its presence at the airport and will benefit from interline agreements with more foreign airlines. ”All those changes are increasing focus and possibilities in Brasília. International airlines are now looking at more efficient ways to leverage the massive presence of new alliance partners in Brasília to offer better connectivity throughout Brazil and serve the capital city with more direct services,” added Ketchibachian.

The new link to Paris has been secured through the support of Routes’ own consultancy, ASM (Airport Strategy & Marketing Ltd) which was hired by Inframérica in 2013 as part of a larger initiative to increase flights and destinations from Brasília. The renowned route development consultants are providing strategic advice, business case development and hands-on network development support for the implementation of Brasília International Airport strategy.

Air France Adds Panama City Links

Elsewhere in the Americas, Air France is gradually increasing its flight offering to Panama. The Company is introducing a fourth weekly frequency to Panama City during the current 2014 summer season, but has confirmed a fifth rotation will be introduced from October 27, 2014 and will operate through the entire 2014/2015 winter season.

The French flag carrier introduced the flight on November 25, 2013, adding to the existing daily schedule provided by its sister carrier, KLM, from Amsterdam. “After several months of successful operations on this route, we are proud to be strengthening our presence by increasing our flight frequencies, therefore meeting the demand of our customers in Europe, Panama and throughout Central America. This will enable us to consolidate our leadership position in the Central and South American region and the Caribbean" said Patrick Alexandre, executive vice president commercial, sales and marketing, Air France-KLM.

The flights, operated using a 309-seat Boeing 777-200 with seating for 35 passengers in Business Class, 24 in Premium Economy and 250 in Economy will enhance connectivity between Europe and Panama city’s Tocumen International Airport, which is dubbed ‘The Hub of the Americas’. It will also enhance connectivity to destinations within the likes of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Nicaragua among others.