Brazilian carrier Azul Linhas Aereas is to launch its first flights into Europe this summer with the introduction of a non-stop connection between Sao Paulo Viracopos/Campinas and the Portuguese capital Lisbon. The four times weekly link will commence from June 22, 2016 and will be flown using an Airbus A330-200.
The long-expected European expansion follows the success of its international flights into the United States and common under common ownership last year with TAP Portugal after Gateway Group, owned by Azul’s founder David Neeleman, teamed with Portuguese bus company, Grupo Barraqueiro to acquire a majority stake in the airline.
Azul wil actually take over the route from TAP Portugal, which currently offers up to three weekly flights between Sao Paulo Viracopos/Campinas and Lisbon. TAP Portugal has served this market since June 2010 and offers three rotations during the summer, falling to two during the winter 2016/2017 schedule. However, in the past couple of days it has closed reservations for flights after May 31, 2016.
Azul’s own significant domestic operation in Brazil and the recent network expansion from the European flag carrier will provide strong feed at each end of the route. The Brazilian currently offers international flights to Fort Lauderdale, Orlando in the USA and Punta del Este and Montevideo (from May 2016) in Uruguay having established itself as the largest carrier by destination in the domestic Brazilian market in less than eight years of operation.
The partnership between Azul and TAP Portugal further strengthens long-standing ties between Portugal and Brazil and will enable the Brazilian carrier to easily shift resources while its home market recovers from its current recession.
The airline’s common ownership has already helped TAP Portugal through the delivery of A330 widebodies for long-haul growth, Embrear E-Jet equipment for a long-awaited fleet renewal at PGA Portugália and ATR turboprops for its new ‘Ponte Aérea’ shuttle between Lisbon and Porto.
The emergence of a ‘new’ TAP Portugal and partnership with Azul is part of a strategy to strengthen the airline in the competitive European market and use its strong regional, European and International networks to grow its hub activities and in particular become a bridge for travellers between European and South America.
Brazil–Portugal relations have spanned over four centuries, beginning in 1532 with the establishment of São Vicente, the first Portuguese permanent settlement in the Americas and continuing through the Portuguese Empire.
These historical links mean that Portugal has remained a strategic European departure point for air services into Brazil. Currently TAP Portugal connects the country’s capital, Lisbon, with eleven destinations in Brazil, as well as offering non-stop flights between Oporto and Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. This network encompasses Belem, Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Fortaleza, Natal, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Salvador, Sao Paulo and Viracopos.
The growth from Azul means there are now 18 airlines offering flights between Europe and Brazil, according to OAG data, and TAP Portugal dominates this market with over 900,000 one-way seats available this year, based on published schedules. This is a 23.9 percent share of the total market from Europe to Brazil, ahead of TAM Airlines (15.9 percent share), Air France (11.0 percent), Lufthansa (9.2 percent), Iberia (6.6 percent), KLM (5.8 percent), Alitalia (5.2 percent) and British Airways (5.1 percent). TAM Airlines is the only one of these carriers to increase its capacity offering this year (up 3.1 percent) with total capacity down 0.2 percent and seats from these major operators down a combined 5.1 percent.