Published on August 31st, 2012 | by Mark Chesnut
Airline News: Brazil’s Changing Skies Means Mergers, Rebranding
BY MARK CHESNUT
(reprinted with permission from Latin Business Traveler www.latinbusinesstraveler.com)
Brazil’s airline industry is a world of shifting alliances and mergers, which makes this a good time for business travelers to take a fresh look at their own loyalties and frequent flyer accounts.
The biggest change, of course, is the creation of LATAM Airlines Group S.A., – the result of this year’s merger of TAM and LAN Airlines S.A. Santiago de Chile-based LAN, which has affiliate hubs in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, and Sao Paulo-based TAM will continue to operate as separate entities. Since June 27, members of LANPASS and TAM Fidelidade have been able to earn and redeem kilometers/points over the route networks of either airline. In addition, members of both airlines’ elite frequent flyer levels now have access to all of the merged company’s VIP lounges and services, including priority check-in, boarding and baggage service.
Gol, the low-cost carrier that also operates Varig, last year bought discount airline Webjet, which it will eventually absorb into the Gol brand. Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, has purchased 3% of Gol’s shares and plans to align Gol’s Smiles frequent flyer benefits with Delta’s.
In May, Azul Brazilian Airlines – a fast-growing discount carrier founded by Brazilian-born David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue in the United States – announced its intention to purchase Campinas, São Paulo State-based TRIP. For now, the airlines will operate with separate brands, but the TRIP name will likely disappear. Already, TRIP passengers can use the free airport shuttle bus service that Azul operates in São Paulo and Santa Catarina.
Colombia-based Avianca – long a familiar name on Brazilian tarmacs – is even more familiar in Brazil today, thanks to parent company Synergy Group’s decision to rebrand Brazilian carrier OceanAir as Avianca Brasil. The Brazilian carrier this year announced plans to invest some 2.7 billion reais in expansion through 2016, a plan that will include eight new Airbus aircraft. Avianca Colombia is now a member of the Star Alliance, while Avianca Brasil has yet to join; it operates its own Amigo loyalty program that is separate from its Colombian counterpart’s LifeMiles program.
Perhaps the consolidation is coming at the right time. According to aviation analysis site Anna Aereo, Brazilian airport traffic dropped in April for the first time in nearly three years – a stark change from the fast growth of past months.
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