Brazil's Azul Launching Shuttle Service Between Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro
Azul is Brazil’s third largest carrier, serves more domestic cities than either larger Gol and LATAM Airlines Group, but it does not fly the country’s highest-profile route. That is about to change.
In just two weeks, the carrier will jump into the market between São Paulo Congonhas (CGH) and Rio de Janeiro Santos Dumont (SDU) in a big way. On Aug. 29, Azul will launch a new shuttle between the two city airports with 34 daily flights on Embraer 195 aircraft.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to offer the Azul experience on flights between Rio and downtown São Paulo,” said John Rodgerson, CEO of Azul, in a statement. “We hope that this is just the first step in our expansion at the Congonhas airport.”
Congonhas is São Paulo’s equivalent of LaGuardia (LGA) airport, if LaGuardia only had a single runway for commercial airline operations.
Azul is United Airlines’ primary partner in Brazil. Serving the busiest route in the country is good for United travelers, who will now have access to this key market in South America’s largest economy.
United owns an 8% stake in Azul, and the two carriers have expressed interest in forming a joint venture between Brazil and the US. A joint venture would allow them to act as essentially a single airline in the market.
Azul’s entrance into the Congonhas-Santos Dumont market follows the demise of United’s other partner in Brazil, Avianca Brasil. The airline, which only shares its name with the Colombian carrier but is otherwise a separate airline, filed for bankruptcy in December and was grounded in May.
In addition to slots at Congonhas, Azul has acquired all 12 Airbus A320neos operated by Avianca Brasil, Rodgerson said during a second quarter earnings call earlier in August.
Azul was the first airline in the Americas to take delivery of the Airbus A330neo in May. It is also the launch customer for the re-engined E195-E2 and will introduce the first aircraft in October.
Azul was founded by David Neeleman, who also founded JetBlue Airways.