David Neeleman’s Brazilian airline, Azul, takes flight


JetBlue founder David Neeleman launches his fourth airline today, Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras S.A. The Brazilian domestic carrier will inaugurate service today between three cities: Campinas (Viracopos Airport), Salvador de Bahia, and Porto Alegre.

Azul launches operations this month with three Embraer 195 and two Embraer 190 aircraft (with 118 and 106 seats, respectively). Another three airplanes will be added next month to introduce nonstop service from Campinas to both Vitoria (Espirito Santo State) and Curitiba (Parana State) on January 14, 2009.

With a fleet of 78 Embraer jets on order, Azul will grow in 2009 to serve 25 cities throughout Brazil with 16 aircraft. The airline will continue to receive an additional jet every month for three years to operate 36 aircraft by the end of 2011.

Azul’s Embraer 190 and 195 aircraft are furnished with ultra-leather seats in a comfortable 2 by 2 seat configuration (no middle seats) with a 31-inch seat pitch. The first five rows of each cabin, “Espaco Azul,” offer 34-inch pitch, available for an additional R$30,00 per segment (approximately US$13).

Azul will change the way Brazilians fly, bypassing congested hubs and offering point-to-point service with exceptional quality and lower prices. The airline will be the first airline in Latin America to offer Live TV on individual monitors, by the end of 2009.

“Having been born in Brazil, it’s so exciting to be able to start a new airline in my other home,” Mr. Neeleman said. “Brazil is the second largest economy in the Americas — and 10th in the world — but only about 5 percent of Brazilians currently fly given the high cost of domestic travel.”

“There is tremendous unsatisfied leisure demand for airline seats because fares are too high. As a result, 150 million people travel by long distance bus,” he added. “And business travelers suffer circuitous routings and lack of frequency. With only 40 percent fewer seats per aircraft, we can provide more frequent and direct service in markets that our competition can’t economically serve.”

The first flight (AD 4064) departs at noon from Campinas to Salvador de Bahia. Three hours later, Azul’s second flight (AD 4062) leaves Viracopos to Porto Alegre, in Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul. The schedule will comprise two flights a day in each direction, increasing in the coming weeks to five daily roundtrips.