Brazilian carrier, Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras, has confirmed it intends to launch daily flights from Viracopos-Campinas International Airport to Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport and Orlando International Airport from December 2014 using its soon to be delivered Airbus A330-200s, its first widebodied aircraft. The confirmation of its initial long-haul network plans were revealed in its formal application to the US Department of Transportation (DOT) for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit.
The independently-owned Brazilian carrier revealed its intention to launch international flights from Viracopos in April this year after finalising arrangements to source A330 and A350 equipment to support its growth intentions. It will initially operate six A330-200s with the first aircraft due for delivery in July 2014 and will supplement these with five A350-900s from 2017. Alongside the two initial routes outlined in the application, Azul also plans to offer a daily link between Viracopos and New York JFK from July 2015.
There are currently several available frequencies for Brazilian carriers under the existing US – Brazil bilateral air services agreement and although Azul has requested designation and frequency allocations from the Brazilian aviation regulator ANAC, these have not yet been formally awarded. The DOT application said Azul’s initial A330-200s used to launch the US routes will be configured with 272 seats, but will be later modified to carry just 246 passengers.
The announcement marks a significant change for the carrier which currently serves the Brazilian domestic market with a fleet comprising only regional aircraft, namely the Embraer E-Jet family and ATR turboprop equipment. The confirmation of its first routes will also fuel suggestions that Azul will build a partnership with US carrier JetBlue Airways, which was also founded by its chief executive officer, David Neeleman, establishing a significant network between the two markets and changing the dynamics of the Brazil – USA market considerably.
“Our customers have been asking for this and now we look forward to providing them with our superior service on international flights, just as we have been doing today on our 880 daily domestic departures,” said David Neeleman, chief executive officer, Azul when the Airbus lease deals were announced earlier this year. “We’re excited to share the Azul experience with new customers internationally and expand the airline’s success story beyond Brazil’s borders.”
The majority of the eleven widebodies will be sourced from International Lease Finance Coporation (ILFC) and will enable earlier delivery slots than if they had been acquired directly from the manufacturer. The lessor will supply three A330-200s from the second half of this year and the five A350-900s in 2017. All will be powered by Rolls-Royce engines. The source of the three outstanding A330-200s has not yet been confirmed.
There has been a significant increase in air services between Brazil and the US in recent years as a more relaxed bilateral agreement has been introduced ahead of the expected establishment of full Open Skies between the countries from October 1, 2015. This agreement between the two most populous countries and largest economies in the Americas has been a significant achievement after many years of negotiation.
In our analysis, below, we highlight which airlines have been the principal players in the market between the US and Brazil over the past ten years, based on annual one way seat capacity from Brazil to the US.
NOTE: Lead image via Twitter.