MIAMI — Azul, the Brazilian low-cost, award-winning airline, announced today a heavy expansion to the United States with two new flights from Belo Horizonte (CNF) to Orlando (MCO), and from Belem (BEL) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL).
The new flights will be launched in December 2017, during the peak of the Brazilian high season.
“I am very pleased to announce new international service from Brazil to the US,” said the airline’s Chairman, David Neeleman. “Not only have our customers been asking for these flights, but this also strengthens our strategic positioning in these important cities,” he added.
In addition to these new nonstop flights, Azul will be increasing its number of flights to FLL and MCO from the airline’s Viracopos (VCP) main hub up to five flights a day.
With these new routes, Azul consolidates itself as the largest airline in Brazil by number of cities served, offering over 739 daily flights, of which over 200 are non-stop, to over 100 destinations. Its fleet counts with 123 aircraft, including 60 Embraer 195s, 10 Embraer 190s, 40 ATR 72-600s, 8 Airbus A320neos, and 6 wide-body Airbus A330-200s.
Long-haul with the Airbus A330 and A320neo
Azul’s presence in the United States continues to grow with increased capacity on the new CNF-MCO route. Operated with the airline’s Airbus A330-200, the airline will offer its passengers one of the best cabins in the industry, fitted with the new Azul Xtra fledged Business Class cabin, Economy Xtra (Premium Economy), and standard Economy.
Similarly, the airline will launch its newest Airbus A320neo on the BEL-FLL route. The new neos are fitted with 174 seats in an all-economy layout, of which 36 are labeled “Espaço Azul”, offering more legroom for paying customers.
Back in January 2016, Azul signed a purchase agreement for more than 35 Airbus A320neos, with an additional 28 to be leased. In October, the first aircraft (PR-YRA), powered by CFM International LEAP-1A engines, was delivered to the airline via GE Capital Aviation Services Limited (GECAS).
Even though the A320neos are set replace E195s on routes where the latter are not doing well, and where higher passenger density is needed, Azul determined that the aircraft was a perfect fit for routes of more than 2,500km [1,350 miles]. The BEL-FLL route is 2,800nm apart.
Antonoaldo Neves, the airline’s CEO, told Airways, “The combination of both Airbus and Embraer will optimise Azul’s offerings. The new Airbus will further drive CASM [cost per available seat mile] down.”
According to Airbus, 52 A320neos and 10 A321neos will be joining Azul’s fleet.
Belo Horizonte Continues to Grow
Azul’s second-largest hub in Belo Horizonte will get leverage from its strong-performing routes from Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Salvador, Vitoria, and Brasilia, which will properly feed the A330 on the long-haul trek to Orlando.
According to CAPA, the US is by far the largest international destination from Brazil, accounting for 25% of the country’s international seat capacity. Orlando is also one of the most popular cities in the US sought by Brazilians.
The CNF-MCO flights will depart on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays at 23:55 and arrive in Orlando at 06:00. The return is set to depart at 08:15 and arrive in Belo Horizonte at 19:45. During low season, frequencies will shift to three flights a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
David Neeleman told Airways, “Long-haul flights are a small part of our business,” Neeleman said. “But our passengers are very much appreciating it.”
Azul boasts an award-winning, on-time service, an exceptional Business Class, an impressive Premium Economy, and an attentive, good-looking crew that’s light years away from the low-cost-carrier norm. In fact, Airways had the opportunity to test the airline’s premium service on the FLL-VCP-FLL route, properly reviewed in our October 2016 issue.
Keeping up their reputation
Azul has received numerous awards for their impeccable performance. The airline was named best low-cost carrier in South America for the seventh consecutive time by Skytrax in 2017; the airline with the best on-time performance in Latin America by FlightStats; the world’s best low-cost carrier by CAPA in 2013; Brazil’s best service provider by the country’s largest newspaper, Estadão; third best airline in the world by TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice in 2017, and the world’s most on-time low-cost airline in 2015 by the Official Airline Guide (OAG)
Azul’s revolutionary business plan bypasses congested hubs, offering convenient point-to-point flights on LiveTV-equipped aircraft.
Even though Azul originally planned to lease five Airbus A350-900s from the International Lease Finance Corporation (ILFC), these orders were sent over to the HNA Group in China, which owns a 23.7% stake in the Brazilian carrier.
Remains to be seen, however, if Fort Lauderdale’s International Terminal will be able to hold the massive expansion of carriers like Norwegian, newcomers British Airways, Emirates, and now Azul.