Azul Airlines plans to fly internationally for the first time between São Paulo, Brazil, and several cities in the U.S., starting early next year, the Brazilian low-fare airline announced Wednesday. It expects to serve the U.S. destinations, the identity of which it plans to announce later this year, with 11 Airbus widebodies from its new $1.5 billion terminal at São Paulo Campinas Airport, located some 50 minutes from downtown São Paulo. Campinas serves as Brazil’s largest airline hub, offering connections to 104 domestic cities.
The airline, which recently signed a contract to lease five Airbus A350-900s and three A330-200s from Los Angeles-based ILFC, plans first to deploy A330s on the routes, then begin installing the A350s early in 2017. It continues negotiations on the lease or purchase of another three A330s. Since the airline’s launch in 2008, Azul’s fleet has grown to consist of eighty 120-seat Embraer E195s and 56 ATR turboprops. It now operates 880 domestic flights a day, accounting for one third of all of Brazil’s daily departures.
Azul’s expansion into the international market represents new competition for fellow Brazilian airline Gol, which flies one-stop service between Brazil and the U.S. with Boeing 737s. Other incumbents include American Airlines and Latam Airlines Group, which controls Brazil’s largest carrier, TAM.
The plan for the fleet expansion and move into the U.S. calls for a $2 billion investment. The airline announced in May last year plans for an IPO but reversed its decision some three months later, citing unfavorable market conditions. Azul CEO David Neeleman has since said he sees no urgency to proceed with the offering.