MIAMI — Brazilian carrier Azul Airlines announced that it plans to start service to the US with Airbus A330s in 2015. The announcement, made on Wednesday, also shared that the carrier has placed an order for five Airbus A350-900 aircraft.
The long haul routes will be a first for the otherwise domestic low-cost carrier. The airline expects to begin receiving its first of six A330-200 aircraft, which it will lease from the IFLC, in early 2015. The carrier expects to begin receiving the A350-900s in 2017.
Which cities the carrier plans to serve remain unknown so far, though New York JFK and Fort Lauderdale are rumored. The airline only said that “the U.S. flights will be served from Blue’s brand new $ 1.5 billion terminal at São Paulo / Campinas airport,” where the carrier maintains a hub already.
Regardless of where, the carrier will be venturing into a competition against native TAM as well as reinvigorated US domestic carriers such as American Airlines. Both have boosted flights to and from the US, particularly as the Word Cup begins in June.
Azul is the brainchild of CEO David Neeleman. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Neeleman was the one-time president of Morris Air, and co-founder of WestJet. But his biggest act was as co-founder of American low cost heavyweight JetBlue. Neeleman left JetBlue in 2007, launching Azul (which is Portuguese for ‘Blue’) in late 2008.
Its on board cabin product and service is, unsurprisingly, not much different from JetBlue with free snacks and LiveTV. It has grown to 16% of the Brazilian market, proving a viable challenger to the larger TAM and Gol airlines. Both have already sought to expand to more international destinations as the once booming Brazilian domestic market has plateaued.
Azul currently maintains a fleet size of 136 airplanes. It primarily operates the Brazilian made Embraer E190/195 jets, though it maintains a sizable fleet of ATR-72s. The fleet presently serves 104 destinations across the nation.