Fast-growing Azul to fly to Brazil from New York
There will be a new option for travelers between New York and Brazil this summer when Azul adds the Big Apple to its growing international map.
The Brazilian carrier will begin service between its Viracopos (VCP) base near São Paulo and New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) on June 15, the airline said Thursday. It will offer daily service on Airbus A330 jets.
"We already offer the broadest network in Brazil with service to more than 100 domestic destinations and now we are adding a very important corporate destination to our portfolio," Azul CEO John Rodgerson said in a statement.
Azul will operate from Terminal 5 at JFK, where the new flight will connect to ones operated by its codeshare partner JetBlue Airways.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, LATAM Airlines and United Airlines all fly between the New York area and São Paulo, however, they serve the Brazilian city's main international airport Guarulhos (GRU) and not Viracopos, according to Cirium schedule data.
Azul initially planned to offer flights to New York shortly after it opened its first U.S. route to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) in 2014. However, the weakening Brazilian economy prompted the carrier to delay New York flights until 2016, and then to indefinitely postpone the planned service.
The Brazilian economy has since rebounded and Azul has expanded its U.S. network. The airline serves Fort Lauderdale and Orlando (MCO) in the U.S. with flights from Belo Horizonte (CNF), Recife (REF) and Viracopos, Cirium schedules show. It also flies between Belem (BEL) and Fort Lauderdale.
Azul's U.S. expansion comes as it considers joining the proposed three-way partnership between Avianca, Copa Airlines, and United. The joint venture would allow the four carriers to operate as essentially a single airline between certain South American countries and the U.S.
United owns an 8% stake in Azul.
The U.S. is not the only market where Azul is growing. On Tuesday, the airline agreed to buy Brazilian regional carrier TwoFlex in what analysts see as a play to expand its presence at slot-controlled São Paulo Congonhas (CGH) airport. Congonhas is the equivalent to New York LaGuardia (LGA) in São Paulo, Brazil's largest city.
Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth said in a report Tuesday that the TwoFlex deal would allow Azul to "increase relevance in the city of Sao Paulo."
Azul gained slots at Congonhas from the bankruptcy of Avianca Brasil last summer. It used the majority of those to launch a new shuttle between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont (SDU) — Brazil's busiest air route.
Azul operated nine A330s, including its first A330neo, with up to 298 seats at the end of September, its latest fleet plan shows. It plans to add three more A330-900s to its fleet in 2020.